- County Under 23 squad enjoy trip of a lifetime down under
- Former All Black full back feted on return to Wellington
Kent County RFU are revelling in the success of the latest step in their playing and coaching development programme which was an exciting summer tour to New Zealand during which a squad of young players and three county coaches were tutored by Rugby World Cup winning coach Sir Graham Henry.
The squad with an average age of 21 played four matches, recording four victories, but the main aim of the trip was to sample and learn from the cultural and rugby ethos of New Zealand.
Players were billeted with local families for some of the tour and on other occasions the squad was together in a Maori hostel in Auckland and at a school in Oamaru, North Otago.
County coaches Chris Wilkins (Kent Player Development Manager), John Gallagher and Taff Gwilliam planned meticulously for a tour that included Henry's coaching session in Auckland, a visit to the city’s Eden Park stadium, attending two Super Rugby matches in Auckland and Christchurch and a presentation and discussion by Jamie Hamilton and Robbie Fruean of the Crusaders.
In Wellington, the coaches also attended a full Hurricanes training session with coach Mark Hammett and All Black scrum coach Mike Cron, as well as an Under 16 Development session coached by former internationals Dave Loveridge and Steve Bachop.
Along the way, former New Zealand full back Gallagher – now headmaster at Colfe's Preparatory School in south-east London – was presented with an All Black cap that has been waiting at his old club Oriental-Rongotai in Wellington since his last Test appearance 23 years ago.
David Corry, chairman of Club Kent and outgoing county president, said: “We were warmly and enthusiastically received everywhere we went, establishing firm links with the clubs we have played as well as places where we trained such as Christchurch Boys’ High School and Waitiki High School, Oamaru.
“The tour featured on national TV and in the New Zealand national and local press, and with billeting and travelling overland the players experienced the country's culture at first hand, visiting Marlborough Sound, Lake Tepako, Queenstown and the magnificent scenery of the South Island.”
All the players received constructive feedback from the coaching team, development points were emphasised and all their club coaches were kept informed.
Corry said: “The coaching team of Chris Wilkins, John Gallagher and Taff Gwilliam were individually and collectively outstanding and the players responded magnificently both on the field and off where they were widely praised by all our hosts.
“They have been a credit to the County.”
Kent Development Squad results, summer 2012 tour: Won v Auckland Marist 38-10, Oriental Rangotai 39-10, Geraldine 29-10 and North Otago 30-29.