Stephen Donald starts search for 'Defenders of Tomorrow'

Waiuku Rugby legend, Stephen Donald, is launching nationwide search for Land Rover Defender mascots for the 2023 Rugby World Cup 2023 in Paris.

Jul 5, 2023

Rugby legend Stephen Donald is searching to find four young mascots to represent New Zealand as Land Rover Defender mascots at the Rugby World Cup in France this September.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will see four young Kiwis run onto the pitch with the world’s best rugby players in front of stadium fans and millions of viewers from around the globe.

Searching for tamariki aged 7-13 years old who showcase incredible character, Stephen will choose youngsters who represent one of four behaviours – Bravery, Innovation, Positivity and Aroha.

Each behaviour defines the meaning behind Defenders of Tomorrow and can be presented in a variety of ways. Whether that’s going the extra mile to help friends or whānau, showing tremendous bravery during tough times, sharing passion about changing the world for the better, or someone who is endlessly positive and always puts a smile on other people’s faces.

With a first class rugby career spanning nearly 20 years, Stephen Donald is passionate about inspiring the next generation of Kiwis who share similar values and determination.

“We are a nation full of deeply passionate and caring individuals, which is why I believe we create some of the most successful sports teams and thought leaders alike,” says Donald. “I’m on a mission to discover the youngest members of our community who are challenging the status quo, fighting the good fight, and defending the future in their own way.”

“I am excited to work with Land Rover Defender, to hear about so many young Kiwis, their passions and their uniqueness, and for the chosen four Defenders of Tomorrow to experience the breath-taking feeling of stepping onto the field at the Rugby World Cup,” added Donald.

Following a successful mascot programme for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, Defender is dedicated to providing a platform to inspire young Kiwis all around the country.

The nationwide search aims to discover passionate young individuals from all corners of the country, from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

13-year old Scarlett Hansen was one of three Kiwi kids selected as a Rugby World Cup mascot in Japan in 2019, and believes the experience is truly a once-in-a-lifetime.

“I still remember running out onto the pitch with Sam Whitelock when New Zealand played Namibia in Japan like it was yesterday. It really was the best experience I’ve ever had – I even got to sing the national anthem alongside the players on international television! I am really grateful for the opportunity and highly recommend applying for this year’s mascot programme,” said Hansen.

Steve Kenchington, CEO of Land Rover New Zealand, added:  “We have launched this search for Defenders of Tomorrow because we know there are hundreds of children in our communities who have showcased huge strengths in character in recent years, and we’re looking forward to hearing their stories. We will be choosing four winners and we are thrilled to be able to offer them the experience of a lifetime at the Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.”

The mascot experience includes return flights for child and caregiver to France, accommodation, tickets to Rugby World Cup 2023 and the chance to walk out on the field with the world’s best players.

To enter, visit and submit a video or written entry showing why your child deserves to win. Submissions close on 9th July 2023 and winners will be contacted by 21st July 2023.