New Zealand Asian Barbarians rugby sevens team to debut in school competition

A rugby sevens team made up of Kiwis of Asian descent hopes to grow the sport and develop talent in ethnic communities.

World School Sevens begins on Saturday at Pakuranga Rugby Club with school-aged Kiwis representing their cultural heritage across 20 teams.

New Zealand Asian Barbarians is the first team made up of Kiwi Asians to compete in a rugby sevens tournament, and will be guided by celebrated former All Blacks Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens.

Louie Kishimoto, 15, is buzzing about playing for the New Zealand Asian Barbarians.

RICKY WILSON/Stuff

Louie Kishimoto, 15, is buzzing about playing for the New Zealand Asian Barbarians.

St Peters College student Louie Kishimoto, 15, is a Kiwi of Japanese descent who has been playing rugby since his dad introduced him to the game when he was 5.

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Kishimoto is the playmaker of the New Zealand Asian Barbarians side.

“It’s a great culture, man, we’re bonding really well. It’s a good experience for the younger ones, especially me,” he said.

Kishimoto sees the World School Sevens as a great opportunity and is excited about growing the game of rugby in Asian communities.

RICKY WILSON/Stuff

Kishimoto sees the World School Sevens as a great opportunity and is excited about growing the game of rugby in Asian communities.

“It’s good to look up to the boys, they’re giving us some good ideas of what rugby is at an older level.”

Kishimoto said he thinks it is a good opportunity to grow rugby in Asian communities across New Zealand.

“Hopefully from now on we can grow this community bigger and bigger,” he said.

World School Sevens will see 18 New Zealand-based teams represent their cultural heritage as Covid-19 has prevented international teams from competing.

RICKY WILSON/Stuff

World School Sevens will see 18 New Zealand-based teams represent their cultural heritage as Covid-19 has prevented international teams from competing.

Tietjens was approached to coach the New Zealand Asian Barbarians by a sponsor.

“We’ve only had a limited time with them since Tuesday. There’s a lot of challenges and a lot of excitement in amongst the players, and they’re really keen, and that’s what you want to deal with these days, you want to deal with players who are really keen to achieve,” he said.

“It’s about getting them to play to pattern that’s going to suit the players we’ve selected and get them to perform in a game that’s going to give them important exposure.”

The team is being guided by former All Black Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens, right, who believes the tournament is a great opportunity for players to get noticed.

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The team is being guided by former All Black Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens, right, who believes the tournament is a great opportunity for players to get noticed.

Tietjens said there was “no question” the team will help to grow rugby among Aotearoa’s Asian youth.

“For the players, what a pathway for them, to use it as a springboard to go to 15s,” he said.

World School Sevens started in 2016 when Rugby Australia reached out to the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) to draw up plans for a tournament to develop school boy and girl rugby talent.

New Zealand Asian Barbarians will face the under-18s New Zealand Warriors sevens team on Saturday at Pakuranga Rugby Club.

RICKY WILSON/Stuff

New Zealand Asian Barbarians will face the under-18s New Zealand Warriors sevens team on Saturday at Pakuranga Rugby Club.

NZRU was too busy with the Olympics, but World School Sevens organizer Phil Gaze heard about it and decided to create a tournament.

Gaze calls it the “nursery ground” of developing rugby players, and said 20 players from seven different countries have gone on to higher honours.

“This a national profile event, so it’s giving the kids in New Zealand who are of Asian descent an opportunity and develop their rugby,” he said.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic there were 32 teams, with 17 international teams including the US, Japan, Fiji, Canada and Australia.

But with borders closed this year there will be 18 New Zealand-based teams all representing their ethnic background, whether that be Fiji, Tonga, Asia or New Zealand.

New Zealand Asian Barbarians team is 50 per cent Asian, but there are plans to expand this as the game grows and to start a women’s team too.

The tournament begins on Saturday at Pakuranga Rugby Club with the New Zealand Asian Barbarians facing the under-18s New Zealand Warriors sevens team at 10am.

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