NZ Rugby takes hands-on approach to secondary schools game

Hamilton Boys High School celebrate
Hamilton Boys High School celebrate at the Condor Sevens final. Photo credit: Photosport

New Zealand Rugby will take a more hands-on approach, after concluding a review into the game at secondary schools level.

Last year, 10 Auckland schools announced their intention to boycott First XV games against St Kentigern College, who they accused of poaching players from opposition teams.

St Kents have won three of the last four Auckland 1A titles, but their semi-professional approach to schools rugby has created a maelstrom of debate and highlighted some of the shortcomings in administration of the game at that level.

While the NZR review was already underway when the Auckland stand-off became public knowledge, many of its findings address the issues raised by the boycotting schools.

"Secondary schools rugby is a vital part of our game," says NZR chief rugby officer Nigel Cass. "For many players, it's where they cemented lifelong friendships and wearing their high school's colour is a cherished memory.

"The report confirmed there are a lot of passionate people involved in the game and great rugby programmes happening all over the country.

"But it also found there's work to be done and helped us pinpoint the areas that require our focus."

The review was conducted by educational consultancy company EdSol, assisted by former NZR head of community rugby Brent Anderson.

"Several people wrote or spoke at length about how performance rugby programmes at certain schools impact negatively on their region or their own schools," said the report.

"In general, they view the pooling of talent into a few strong rugby schools as a significant factor in the decrease of numbers playing the game, because of the flow-on effects of, for example, uneven competitions."

Of the 31 recommendations made, NZ Rugby will prioritise six over the next 12-15 months.

  • Recruiting an NZR manager of secondary school rugby
  • Reviewing NZ secondary school rugby governance
  • Developing NZR secondary school rugby strategy
  • Implementing priority recommendations for girls' rugby
  • Reviewing Rugby Administrators in Schools funding model
  • Investigating the expansion of E Tu Rangatahi programme for Māori players in schools

A key principle of the review is equitable resourcing of girls' rugby in co-ed schools and adequate resourcing in schools where girls' rugby is a new sport.