As one or two of you may know I’m a bit of a rugby fan and happily travel the globe watching 30 muscle-bound blokes getting mean and dirty… all in the name of sport!

So it seems only appropriate in this the year of the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia to talk about a fairly recent trip to the other side of the world to watch the amazing Rugby World Cup.

Hosted by the Kiwis in 2011, I was lucky enough to travel 11,400 miles to Auckland to take in some of the country’s amazing culture, incredible scenery and the occasional match of rugby.

Mitsubishi New Zealand kindly supplied a rather snazzy ASX to help make travelling round that little bit easier and with Land Rover being one of the tournament’s major sponsors supplying 80 vehicles, they sorted out some rather special days out along the way.

I have often wondered why cars are so readily handed out to celebrities and questioned exactly what the manufacturer gets back in turn apart from the occasional appearance at a function and a few photo shoots.

But my eyes were opened when Land Rover invited me to attend a rather unusual event at Sheepworld about 60 miles north of Auckland.

It was at this event that I watched as legendary All Black’s outside half Andrew Mehrtens – dressed casually in shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops – chased sheep around a pen, physically tackling them and lifting them into a trailer to complete an off-road course in a Discovery 4.

Somehow, he looked so natural, unlike French winger and current national coach Philippe Saint-Andre who also took part in the fun challenge, but exclaimed, “I’m a sportsman not a farmer!”

It’s events like this that attract the TV crews and offer a little light-hearted fun to break up the intensity of the tournament. But they are vital to the likes of Land Rover who received maximum exposure.

Sponsorship Manager, Ed Tilson, said, “This was a great   opportunity for us to put our vehicles into context and showcase New Zealand and France as finalists. It’s a great off-road setting and we were able to show a little of the vehicle’s towing capabilities in a fun environment.”

 In-between the weekend matches it was the ideal opportunity to explore the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand. When out of the major cities, cars are few and far between which makes motoring a lot more fun and gave me the chance to really test out the ASX.

It’s a vehicle that has been proven both on and off road and the all-wheel-drive proved invaluable on one trip when a land-slip brought down part of a cliff and planted a tree perfectly in the centre of the carriageway.

But that narrow escape aside, the car was returned safe and sound to Mitsubishi none the worse for wear. So with the Webb Ellis Cup lifted by the tournament favourites, the All Blacks, it’s on to the next challenge.

I’m already looking to book my flights to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to cheer on the very best the UK can send to take on the Wallabies.  And thankfully, there won’t be a vuvuzela in sight. After all this isn’t football you know!

Maxine Ashford
Maxine Ashford

Maxine has more than 30 years’ experience in journalism and has been specialising in motoring for the last 18 years, so fulfilling a life-long passion. It gives her the chance to drive all the new models both here in the UK and overseas, as well as interviewing the specialists and engineers behind the very latest innovative technology. Maxine has written for national and regional newspapers, specialist magazines, leading websites and also completed assignments in broadcasting.

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