Rugby: St Kentigern cleared to contest Auckland First XV competition

St Kentigern College have been cleared to play in Auckland's First XV 1A competition this year, but they must stand down some players, after poaching out-of-zone talent.

In December, 10 Auckland schools threatened to boycott their games against St Kents, due to excessive player recruitment.

An independent review conducted by barrister Tim Castle, former Auckland college principal Gail Thomson and former All Black Ian Jones found that the private school had engaged in player poaching.

But the review committee felt a boycott by other colleges wasn't in the best interest of the players, as it is a breach of College Sport Auckland rules and bylaws.

St Kentigern will not play their new-to-school players from outside of Auckland for the first six games of the 2019 tournament and they must stand down two out-of-zone players for any playoff matches.

"Relationships between participating schools have suffered," Castle said in a statement. "We find that St Kentigern is, in significant respect, the author of its own misfortune in not adequately taking on board the changed mood amongst the participating schools community.

"Enough is enough. This practice must stop."

Saint Kentigern Trust Board chairman John Kernohan said: "We welcomed the panel's appointment and have remained committed to following its findings.

"The panel confirmed Saint Kentigern has followed the rules of this competition. We also accept that over several years, we should have recognised concerns about an advantage being gained through the enrolment of students and their selection for the 1st XV.

"The panel made an initial ruling that this issue should be resolved by having new-to-school players stood down for the first six games of the season, which we agreed to, along with one other school," Kernoghan added.  

"We have decided to also agree to a further call from the 10 other participating schools for the two most directly affected players to be also stood down for any semi-final and final games.

"We are conscious of the impact this will have on boys who came to the college in good faith. But on balance and in the interests of bringing this to a close, the trust board has agreed to this extra step in the interests of allowing the competition to get underway and seeing students participate in their sport."

St Kents open their 2019 season against defending champions St Peter's College next month.