New Zealand Rugby Museum opens ahead of World Cup

A museum showcasing one of the world's finest collections of rugby heritage artefacts has reopened in New Zealand ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

The NZ Rugby Museum in Palmerston North opened its doors last week following a NZ$2 million (€1.15 million) upgrade, which includes a new purpose-built gallery in the Te Manawa cultural complex.

It holds some 40,000 Rugby Heritage items, said to be unmatched in the rugby world, and has been collecting since its founding in 1969.

Among the collection is an 1882 "puntabout" ball, a 1950s square-toed boot and a modern tackle bag, positioned to tell the story of Rugby's evolution in New Zealand and around the world.

One of the rarest items is the oldest example of the country's iconic All Blacks jersey, which dates from 1905.

As well as telling the story of rugby, the museum encourages visitors to pit their skills against interactive exhibits, along with a changing exhibition space and a library for sports academics to research.

It has reopened just in time for the Rugby World Cup, set to begin this September and the biggest ever international event held in New Zealand.

Some 60,000-85,000 international visitors are expected to fly into the country, while audiences of millions from around the world will be watching the games - two of which will be held in Palmerston North - from their homes.

Tourism officials predict the event will add millions of dollars to the local economy.