The top schoolboy players in the country have been found with New Zealand Rugby today announcing the 2021 New Zealand Schools, New Zealand Barbarian Under 18 and New Zealand Māori Under 18 Ngā Whatukura Boys teams.
The 75 players have been rewarded for their performances and potential in school and club rugby this season and stretch the length of the country.
From Dargaville High School in the north to Southland Boys’ High School in the south, 30 schools and nine clubs are represented with players selected from across 15 provincial unions.
New Zealand Rugby High Performance Pathways Manager Ben Fisher said it was a great honour for all those who had been selected today.
“We’ve seen another season of rugby disrupted by Covid 19, which includes the original schedule for these teams. For many of these players this will be the end of their school rugby, so it is great we have been able to select these squads and form a programme for them.
“The work of our convenors and talent identification network has been fantastic in canvasing across school and club rugby to select this group of young men. Now the task is providing them with a development opportunity that sets them up for success.”
The Barbarian Under 18 criteria has changed in 2021 from a schoolboy’s team to Under 18, having the potential to capture players who may have missed out on representative opportunities during a fragmented season in 2020, Fisher acknowledged the New Zealand Barbarian Club for their ongoing support of schools rugby.
The New Zealand Schools team is headed by the Hurricanes’ Chris Gibbes, with Gus Leger (Sacred Heart, Auckland) and Tyler Bleyendaal (Hurricanes) completing the coaching team. Fresh from leading the Black Ferns Sevens to gold in Tokyo, Allan Bunting will coach the Barbarian team, with assistant coaches Ryan Bambry (King’s High School) and James Hantz (Auckland Grammar). Kahu Carey (Rangitāne o Wairau, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō) will coach the Under 18 Māori team alongside Simon Kneebone and Ngatai Walker (Ngāti Porou).
While travel restrictions have affected an international schedule that was hoped, all three teams will assemble for a development week and play a game of three halves. The New Zealand Schools and New Zealand Barbarian Under 18s will play the curtain raiser to a Bunnings NPC match in Wellington on 8 October.
A further match for the New Zealand Māori Under 18 team, and the 2021 New Zealand Māori Under 18 Mareikura Girls team, will be announced in due course.