The timing of the Women's Rugby World Cup has been a bonus for international backpackers who are returning to New Zealand now the borders are fully open.
After two years of restrictions, applications for unlimited working holiday visas resumed in March for residents of 14 countries. They include France, Canada, Japan, Italy, USA, England, Scotland and Wales, who all have teams competing in the tournament.
As well as new applicants, travellers with visas approved before the pandemic were given a 6-month window to get to New Zealand. The deadline of September 13 meant many visitors arrived bang on time for the world cup pool games and finals.
Hamilton-based French backpackers Julie Aupetit and Benjamin Rodrigues say they're excited to head to Eden Park for the semifinals on Saturday. Aupetit said a messenger group for French people travelling in NZ has been a good place for information "and is growing every day as more people arrive".
Rodrigues said excitement was building in the group with a lot of interest in the Women's World Cup and people keen to see France play.
The long-time rugby fan says the tournament has been "a total bonus" and the chance to see his home country play against New Zealand "is amazing, and the perfect reason to go to the famous Eden Park".
The pair are planning to meet new friends from the group to catch up before the games and are impressed they get to see two semifinal matches on the one ticket.
Rodrigues has two objectives for Saturday. "I really want to see a haka, and also to see France win," he laughs.
Aupetit says they didn't have room in their suitcases for costumes but will make an effort to dress up in the tricolour and make a lot of noise supporting the team.
The pair, who are currently doing a homestay help exchange, want to do a mix of holiday, hiking, seasonal work and homestays during their year in New Zealand and are especially keen to find work near the beach.
"In France we live inland and the ocean is far away," Rodrigues says, "so it is our dream to work next to the beach."
The game is expected to be close with the fourth-ranked French team performing well in pool play and only losing by 6 points to top seed England. New Zealand, ranked second, came through pool play with no losses. Both teams are coming to the semifinal after comprehensive wins in the quarterfinals against Italy and Wales.
Rodrigues and Aupetit say they will be cheering loudly from the stands.