British pop star Ed Sheeran has issued a resounding endorsement of New Zealand in an Australian interview, praising the All Blacks for their supremacy over the Wallabies and showing off his pounamu necklace.
The 'Shape of You' hitmaker - who revealed he'd be returning to our shores in March next year - went on a reasonably lengthy tangent about his love for New Zealand in an interview with Sunday, a current affairs programme on Australian network Channel 7.
"I do really, really, like New Zealand," he said, drawing a quizzical "why?" from interviewer Angela Cox.
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That resulted in an even more bemused reaction from Sheeran, who then asked why she seemed to have responded so negatively to the comment.
"Why are you getting uppity? Do Australians not like New Zealanders or something?" he asked.
"Well, you know we have a little bit of a rivalry," she responded, drawing an abrasive retort from Sheeran.
"Have you? Why, because they're better than you at rugby? I said it," he said with a wry smile.
"Coming out swinging today," Cox laughed, before asking him about his pounamu necklace - a Māori treasure carved to resemble a whale's tail, which he is known to be very fond of.
"I still have it, and I haven't taken it off since [getting it]," he said. "I bought loads of them and gave them to all my mates as well, and they haven't taken them off."
He then turned back to the issue at hand - mending his faltering relationship with our trans-Tasman neighbour - though not without a parting shot.
"I just like New Zealand and I like Australia for different reasons," he said. "I can't win. But they have got a better rugby team."
Sheeran has spent plenty of time in Aotearoa since he shot to fame, going bungy jumping in Queenstown with Sir Peter Jackson's daughter last year and spending time at New Chums Beach in the Coromandel.
Earlier this year, the 'Lego House' singer revealed he has applied for citizenship in New Zealand, and would come here if a war broke out "because no one is going to be bothered to come that far to invade".
Sheeran is performing shows in Auckland and Dunedin on March 24 and 28, 2018 respectively.