The Māori All Blacks squad is touring Japan, another opportunity to not only put rugby on the world stage but also the Māori culture.
The cultural aspects makes this team unique, it has also inspired some of the players to want to learn more when they return home and that's exactly what Elliot Dixon and Blade Thomson did following last year's tour.
Dixon and Thomson enrolled into reo classes this year.
Dixon says, “I've been going since March. It's a full-time course and hopefully I'll graduate when I get back and then do year two and see what happens from there."
Blade Thomson says, “We just started getting into whaikōrero and tauparapara and it was just getting interesting then we had to shoot off."
Traditionally the first night of every Māori All Blacks tour the team will get up and introduce themselves, an experience Dixon remembers.
“As soon as I made the Māori side the first time, my pepeha wasn't the best, I remember that, I felt pretty gutted and I made the goal to improve,” says Dixon.
Both guys can understand a lot more during the nightly cultural sessions run by team kaumātua Luke Crawford.
Dixon says, “I'm picking up on more of what Luke is saying during the cultural sessions and what he's talking about and even the whakatauki he put up today.”
Thomson says, “It's getting easier still learning along the way but it's just the start of my journey in te reo.”
Both players proudly display their Māori heritage on their skin and in Elliot's case it also follows his Māori All Blacks journey.
“It's actually of my first Māori Jersey, it's Papatūānuku on the bottom and Ranginui up the top and it's got the past, present and the future warriors who are all holding rugby balls; a little bit of a deeper meaning for myself,” explains Dixon.
So this black jersey has not only uplifted the loose forwards on the footy field but also in their language and culture.