The world champion All Blacks squad will visit several communities as part of the All Blacks to the Nation tour starting on Sunday.
In association with the team's sponsor, Air New Zealand, they'll visit Tahuna near Hamilton, Bay View in the Hawke's Bay, Palmerston North, Richmond near Nelson and Rolleston in Canterbury.
Various people and clubs will be acknowledged for their dedication and contribution to rugby. They include;
Ray Kett, a stalwart of the Northern Rugby Club in Tahuna. Ray gets up at the crack of dawn every Saturday and drives around the region to pick up players to ensure there is a team to play on Saturdays.
Esk View Club in Bay View who’s senior team went from winning one game in the entire season last year to taking out their senior championship in 2016 – the first time they have won their championship in 50 years.
The Pearsons from Kia Toa Junior Club in Palmerston North who have grown their club and organised a new junior tournament that has grown by 64 extra players in two years.
In Waimea near Nelson the community has worked hard to develop a Waimea Combined high school team made up of players from the local high school and other rural schools in the area. The girls’ team from Motueka High School will also receive an All Blacks visit.
In Canterbury girls' Rippa Rugby is growing and teams from Rolleston and Waihora will be mixing with the All Blacks on 4 September too.
New Zealand Rugby’s General Manager Rugby Neil Sorensen said the All Blacks enjoyed visiting places they may not have been to before and meeting people from different areas of the country.
“This year we’re rewarding, people, teams, and clubs that have helped grow rugby. Every All Black knows they wouldn’t be in their black jersey today without the dedication of people like those we’re visiting. The team can’t wait to get out to rugby communities.”