Taranaki Rugby has seen off international competition to sign a contract to bring some of China's most promising sevens players to New Plymouth for specialist coaching.
The deal has been 18 months in the making and follows a visit made by a Taranaki Rugby delegation, including head coach Colin Cooper, to China last year.
A delegation from China was also hosted by Taranaki Rugby at last year's World Cup match between Ireland and the United States.
Unions in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa were all keen to sign up to the deal with the Beijing sports college.
Taranaki Rugby Football Union chairman Lindsay Thomson was reluctant to talk specifics on how much the deal was worth, but he did say it was a "low-end six-figure sum" with the potential to increase markedly.
"They looked at Natal in South Africa, they looked at an option in Australia and they looked at Canterbury but they thought Taranaki would be a better option," Thomson said.
The deal involves 38 male and female players from Beijing travelling to New Plymouth to spend a month training at New Plymouth Boys' High School in November and December where they will receive specialist coaching from Cooper, rugby development manager Jono Phillips and elite development coach Clark Laidlaw. A number of past and present players will also assist.
The Chinese players and some coaches will be housed at Witt.
Laidlaw, who has been assistant coach for the New Zealand sevens teams for the past two seasons, is thought to have been central to negotiations between Taranaki Rugby and national sevens coach Gordon Tietjens, who is also involved in the deal.
Tietjens, who has led New Zealand to two Commonwealth Games gold medals, as well as winning multiple world championships, will spend two days with the visiting players.
"Beijing want to be the centre of sporting excellence in China, so they already have a sevens programme in place," Thomson said.
"They want to see their players developed into potential Chinese players who could contest for a sevens gold medal at the Olympics in Rio. They want to be exposed to the best coaching they can get. He [Tietjens] is a real selling point."
Although the deal is only for one year, Thomson was hopeful it would be extended after the Beijing delegation assessed their first visit.
He also believed it could be the start of an expanded international programme being offered by Taranaki Rugby.
"We'd like to think we will do it so very, very well, they will want to come back year after year," he said.
Mr Thomson believed the deal could also have long-term benefits for the region.
- Taranaki Daily News
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