Sevens: Initiative set to launch US invasion

By Ben Guild

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The Bay of Plenty's international reputation as a strong sevens region is set to be enhanced next year with planned high performance sevens programmes for US tertiary students.Photo /File.
The Bay of Plenty's international reputation as a strong sevens region is set to be enhanced next year with planned high performance sevens programmes for US tertiary students.Photo /File.

American students could soon be pouring into the Bay of Plenty to study one of the region's most famous exports - sevens rugby.

The game was not invented here, but it is one of the major places it has been developed by the likes of All Blacks Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens and national women's coach Sean Horan.

A partnership between Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union and Education New Zealand is set to leverage off that distinction by offering American college students the opportunity to complete a semester of study in the Bay in courses that can be credited back to their degree, while also undertaking an internationally recognised high performance rugby sevens training programme.

The polytechnic has been awarded $45,000 by Education New Zealand to develop the programme.

Polytechnic chief executive Dr Alan Hampton believed the initiative was a natural fit that would benefit both parties.

"This is an exciting opportunity for the Bay of Plenty to host a unique experience for overseas student sportsmen and sportswomen," said Hampton.

Bay of Plenty Rugby Union chief executive Mike Rogers was thrilled to be part of the programme.

"We anticipate the first students to embark on the programme will start in July 2014 and we look forward to showing our international guests all the best the Bay has to offer," said Rogers.

The initiative stemmed from a trip by former player and development and academy manager Dean Jennings to Penn State University this year for a number of weeks.

"This sort of came off the back of that. The Penn State visit was a stand-alone relationship we developed.

"Off the back of that, and how well it went and understanding a little bit more of the market in the collegiate system, we sat down with the polytechnic and suggested their might be an opportunity there.

"They saw some good wins for them and obviously from a sevens strategy the tertiary market was a good fit for us."

Rogers believed the ability for students to study while they train will have significant pulling power.

"The tertiary component is the critical bit. Those students from the US will be able to come out here and study and still cross credit those courses back to the States. I think that's a real point of difference."

The game's inclusion in the 2016 Olympics has triggered a great deal of investment in the sport, with the Bay reaping part of that.

The region has won the right to host the next two national sevens tournaments, while both the men's and women's teams will be based at Blake Park this week.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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