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All Blacks to reward rugby communities with special visits

A rugby club that overcame the odds to win their championship, a couple's special commitment to junior rugby, and some very dedicated girls’ rippa rugby teams are among those being rewarded with a visit from the All Blacks, when they fly out to communities around the country this Sunday 4 September.

This year, All Blacks to the Nation, in association with long term sponsor Air New Zealand, takes the team to Tahuna near Hamilton, Bay View in the Hawke’s Bay, Palmerston North, Richmond near Nelson and Rolleston in Canterbury.

The people, clubs and communities being recognised for their dedicated contribution to rugby 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 – particularly when they shared a love for the game.

“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.”

Air New Zealand Sponsorship and Communities Manager Meghan Blair said, “All Blacks to the Nation is always a big event on our calendar and once again we are looking forward to taking the players to meet deserving fans in communities throughout the country.

"A big part of this event for us is having members of the team surprise and delight our customers at Air New Zealand ports while they are travelling to the regions.”

There will also be opportunities throughout the day for fans to interact with the All Blacks while they make their way to the featured communities.

The All Blacks have flown around the country for the hugely popular All Blacks to the Nation event every year since 2011, thanks to the support of longstanding sponsor Air New Zealand.