Nelson College headed for international sevens showdown at Rugby School
Nelson College intend to be the perfect guests.
But they're also determined to gate-crash Rugby School's party.
Rugby School, renowned as the birthplace of the game, is celebrating its 450th year and as part of its year-long commemorations, it has organised an international schools sevens tournament with Nelson College included among the 12 competing teams.
Nelson College head offshore on Saturday for the two-day tournament, scheduled for March 24-25, but will make a two-day stop-over at the Rosslyn Park national schools sevens tournament in London as part of their build-up for the main event.
And according to coach Andrew Goodman, the 12-player squad is raring to go.
"Most of the boys had some First XV experience last year and Nick Pringle the new First XV trainer's been working the boys hard for the upcoming season anyway, so they've been getting plenty of conditioning outside our trainings," Goodman said.
"We've jut been concentrating on learning the game and getting some combinations going."
There's obviously some mystery surrounding their opposition.
"It's going into a bit of the unknown really. We've obviously got the Rosslyn Park tournament first for a couple of days to find our feet and get a bit of sevens game time under our belt and then we head off to Rugby School to play in the main tournament we're heading over there for.
"We've got some pretty skilled boys there and most of them are year 13 so they've had that experience in the First XV and they're really champing at the bit to get over there and have a crack."
Nelson College headmaster Gary O'Shea said he had been in regular contact with Rugby School over the last 12 years. He was honoured for the school to be chosen and had gladly accepted the invitation.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity and an historic event that won't be forgotten," he said.
Nelson College has played Rugby School twice at home in the 1990s as well as a match against a Rugby RFC under-17 side near the Warwickshire school in 1999.
However, the sevens tournament will see Nelson College play on The Close playing fields where William Webb Ellis is said to have picked up a ball during a game of football in 1823, inventing the game of rugby in the process.
Seven northern hemisphere schools from Canada, Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are competing.
Nelson College will be the sole New Zealand representative at the tournament and one of five from the southern hemisphere, joining South Africa's Hilton College and Michaelhouse, Japan's Oita Maizuru High School and Australia's Shore Sydney Church of England Grammar School.
Nelson College will compete in group B alongside Clifton College (England), Llandovery College (Wales), Michaelhouse, Royal Belfast Academical Institution (Northern Ireland) and Shawnigan Lake School (Canada).
The top two teams from each of the two groups will contest the main Cup competition on Saturday. The third and fourth-placed teams will contest the Plate and the fifth and sixth-placed teams will play off for the Bowl.
Jason Leonard OBE, president of the Rugby Football Union, will act as an ambassador for the event. Leonard is a former prop who played 114 internationals for England between 1990 and 2004 and was part of their successful 2003 Rugby World Cup squad. He also earned five caps for the Lions.
At a glance
NELSON COLLEGE - Caleb Coventry, Leicester Faingaanuku, Max Fraine, Ben Hazlett, Neo Milligan-Richard, Brad Pool, Karl Ratcliffe, Taine Robinson, Archie Smith, Joe Taylor, Kyle Te Tai, Graham Urquhart; coach: Andrew Goodman; manager: Peter Grigg.
COMPETING SCHOOLS - Clifton College (England), Fettes College (Scotland), Hilton College (South Africa), Llandovery College (Wales), Marlborough College (England), Michaelhouse (South Africa), Nelson College (New Zealand), Oita Maizuru HS (Japan), Royal Belfast Academical Institution (Northern Ireland), Rugby School (England), Shawnigan Lake School (Canada), Shore School (Australia).