Tens of thousands of rugby fans gathered in Auckland to attend the opening ceremony (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk) of what prime minister John Key described as the biggest event New Zealand has staged.
The Rugby World Cup then started with the first match at Eden Park between the All Blacks and Tonga, with the host beating Tonga 41-10.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” Mr Key said as he went to Eden Park.
“New Zealand’s done everything it can to be prepared, there’s a really friendly atmosphere out there and people are loving what’s going on.”
In six weeks 48 matches will take place in all major cities, except in Christchurch. The city was supposed to host seven matches but last February it was hit by an earthquake which killed 181 people and destroyed large parts of the city now judged uninhabitable.
The inaugural Rugby World Cup took place in New Zealand in 1987. It was the last time the country hosts the six-week event and also the last time the All Blacks won the title.
The opening ceremony was watched by a worldwide audience of about one billion people. In Auckland huge crowds watched it on big screens along the waterfront.
And at Eden Park 60,000 people watched some 10 silver boats, on wheels, enter the pitch, supported by hundreds of dancers dressed in silver and white.
Themed “the journey”, the ceremony showed the settlement of New Zealand through the boats. Then Maori warriors performed a powerful haka.
Then at 20:30 (08:30GMT), the first match kicked off with each team performing its war dance.
Tonga won the toss of the coin so they performed their haka, known as the sipi tau, then the All Blacks executed their world-famous haka (photo, from leparisien.fr).
New Zealand scored six tries – four in the first 33 minutes – and Tonga one.
After the game New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said “It was a start, I think that’s all we can look at it as.”
“There were definitely some good patches. Perhaps in the second half, we spent a bit of time in their 22 and we didn’t actually capitalise.
“I thought we brought physicality, our defence was reasonably good. It was a bit disappointing to let them score but we had to defend for a while.”
He added : “We are excited about getting under way, it’s been a long time coming and to play in front of a crowd like this is pretty cool.”