National Under 85kg College Rugby Festival to Debut at Winter Tournament Week
With the support of New Zealand Rugby (NZR), Wellington Rugby will host the inaugural Under 85kg College Rugby Festival as part of School Sport NZ’s popular Secondary School Winter Tournament Week.
The inaugural tournament will be held at the Petone Recreation Ground August 30 - September 1.
NZR’s General Manager of Community Rugby, Steve Lancaster said “Weight restricted rugby is exciting and fast and we are heartened that it is growing in popularity all around the country and we’re keen to see it at all levels. This National Under 85kg Rugby Festival is all about giving our keen weight restricted players a truly memorable rugby experience during their final years of school rugby.”
Callum McNair, NZR’s Secondary School Rugby Manager added, “We are thrilled that Wellington Rugby have offered to host this inaugural festival at such short notice. While we appreciate that the timing may be challenging for some schools, we’re confident the festival will attract enough teams from around the country to get this tournament off to a great start.”
While the overall eligibility criteria requires players to be under 85kg, this festival is essentially for Year 11-13 players to have the opportunity and honour of representing their school at the top weight restricted level.
In that spirit, teams entering this Under 85kg tournament may include:
- Established weight grade teams e.g. from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch
- Players from open weight 2nd,3rd ,4th XV college rugby (e.g. from schools whose local competitions don’t have a top weight restricted grade).
- Teams that include 1st XV players from second/third tier competition grades
(i.e. boys not playing top division 1st XV rugby in the major city or regional competitions).
- Composite dual college teams e.g. representing their town or rural region etc.
Wellington Rugby CEO, Matt Evans added, “We’re extremely excited to be hosting this inaugural national Under 85kg college rugby festival. And while the teams will no doubt bring a keen competitive spirit, first and foremost this festival is about embracing and celebrating the values of our great game - camaraderie, teamwork, sportsmanship and a sheer love of playing rugby with mates - and meeting new ones.”
The tournament format will be confirmed once the number of competing teams is established. The aim is to hold multiple short games so that teams get to play as many different schools from around the country as possible, before all teams play a finals round. Wellington Rugby are also planning to host a gala dinner for all competing teams where renowned New Zealand rugby personalities will meet and speak to all the players.
NZR is confident that initiatives like this Under 85kg college rugby festival will also help reinvigorate and grow participation in weight restricted rugby at all levels across the college rugby. Importantly too, it will not only encourage boys to keep playing Under 85kg rugby at club level upon leaving school, but also inspire them to play in the rapidly growing Under 85 National Club Cup. Instigated by Sir Graham Henry, the national club competition has grown from 19 in it’s first year to 47 teams across 12 provinces in 2022, with this year’s final being played as a curtain raiser for the Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship Test match between All Blacks and Argentina in Hamilton.