Sevens great helps out as Asian Barbarians make NZ rugby history

The NZ Asian Barbarians are set to make history at the World Schools Sevens and the team is getting a helping hand from a bona fide legend of the sport.

The sixth edition of the tournament takes place at Pakuranga rugby club this weekend, with some of the country's best school boy and girl talent on display.

For the first time a NZ Asian Barbarians team has been entered and they've managed to get a sevens great on board, with Sir Gordon Tietjens joining the coaching team.

The competition started in 2016 when Rugby Australia wanted to develop their high school sevens players and asked New Zealand Rugby if they wanted to create an event.

NZR declined with their focus on the Rio Olympics, but World Schools Sevens organiser Phil Gaze heard about the conversation and took matters into his own hands.

"So I rang up the Aussies and said 'I'll organise a game against the New Zealand Schoolboys and Schoolgirls' and they said 'Yep sounds fantastic'.

"Then I reached out to different ethnic communities; I had friends who are Fijian, Samoan and Tongan and they said 'Hey we'd like to enter a team as well' and before you knew it we had ten teams competing in 2016."

And the talent at that inaugural tournament was impressive.

"Hoskins Sotutu a current All Black, Scott Gregory who plays for the Highlanders and New Zealand Sevens, Vilimoni Koroi of the Highlanders and New Zealand Sevens.

"There was also a boy called Meli Derenlagi who played for the NZ Fijian team who went on to not only captain Fiji, but also picked up a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. There was also the current Australian women's sevens captain," Gaze said.

The World Schools Sevens has grown year on year, though Gaze said the 2021 version was pushed back to this weekend by the pandemic.

"Prior to Covid we had 17 teams from around the world. We had Canada, Japan, Fiji, USA, Tonga, Australia, Australian Indigenous as well as our New Zealand based teams. So, pre-Covid, we were heading towards 40 or 50 teams."

The tournament starts on Saturday, with the boys and girls finals on Sunday afternoon.