Rugby, New Zealand’s unofficial sport and one of the its most popular games (more than 145,000 Kiwis are registered as players with the International Rugby Board, the sport’s global governing body), offers all the bone-crushing action of football without any wimpy padding or helmets to interfere with the fun. If you’re interested in seeing the blood fly, pull up a seat for the New York Knights rugby league, who play the Boston Thirteens at Pier 40 (Houston St at the Hudson River,newyorkknightsrugby.com) on Saturday 5 at 8pm. Keep an eye out for players Daniel and Shawn Taylor, brothers who grew up in New Zealand.
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Should you prefer your sports a bit more civilized (i.e., less likely to shatter your clavicle), try your hand at lawn bowling (Bizarro bocce) with the New York Lawn Bowling Club (Central Park, enter at Central Park West and 69th St;nybowls.com). Every Monday at 5:45pm, the group offers novices a chance to test their mettle by rolling asymmetrical balls (called “bowls”) across a well-manicured lawn toward a small white orb known as the “jack.” As with many diversions common in the British Commonwealth, etiquette plays a major role: The club’s rule book suggests using “accepted hand signals instead of shouting” to communicate during matches, as well as cautioning, “Do not applaud if your opponent makes a bad shot; it could happen to you.”
In spite of its reputation as a land of woodsy outdoorspeople and mithril-clad hobbits, New Zealand maintains a small but thriving fashion scene. Originally dedicated to Aussie and Kiwi fashion lines, Elizabeth Charles (639 Hudson St between Gansevoort and Horatio Sts; 212-243-3201, elizabeth-charles.com) has opened its doors to clothiers from around the world, but still carries New Zealand designers like Zambesi and Karen Walker. The former tends to use darker color palettes, and the latter offers a preppy, tomboyish look, according to boutique owner Elizabeth Charles.
With around 4 million people and 2.5 million cars, New Zealand has one of the highest per-capita rates of automobile ownership in the world. The country also has one of the highest populations of sheep per capita, with 39 million of the woolly beasts (9.3 sheep per person). And before you ask—that’s 15.6 sheep per car.