Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Sevens: England pair honed skills in Bay

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Former Rangataua fullback Ruaridh (Rory) McConnochie scores  for England on debut against Kenya during the Dubai Rugby Sevens last December. Photo / Getty Images
Former Rangataua fullback Ruaridh (Rory) McConnochie scores for England on debut against Kenya during the Dubai Rugby Sevens last December. Photo / Getty Images

The England team taking on the world's best at the Wellington Sevens this weekend has a strong Western Bay connection.

Jack Wilson was born in Tauranga and played for the Steamers in 2012 after making his sevens debut for New Zealand in Hong Kong, while Ruaridh "Rory" McConnochie spent his gap year at Tauranga Boys' College in 2010-2011 before going to university.

It is an annual arrangement between his Cranbrook School in Kent and Tauranga Boys' instigated by long-serving teacher Rob Leslie, who also taught at Cranbrook.

McConnochie had his 19th birthday in Tauranga and spent the school year helping out with myriad duties inside and outside of the classroom.

The fleet-footed fullback and accurate goal kicker linked with the Rangataua Sports club where he came into weekly contact with Matua Parkinson, Nathaniel Walker and Matt Clutterbuck, who have all worn the All Blacks Sevens jersey.

McConnochie played sevens and then a full Baywide Premier season of fifteens.

"It was such a great experience. They are obviously a very proud rugby club and just experiencing that culture first hand was the best thing for me," McConnochie said.

"With the rugby the club played, it was very free-flowing and there wasn't too much kicking. It was very much a run first emphasis and I suppose that helped a lot just to develop my skill set. That experience with Matua, Matty and also Nathaniel definitely helped me as I had never been exposed to that level of rugby before.

"I played a few sevens tournaments with Muts [Parkinson] as the coach with that wealth of experience that he brought. Matt was not yet Bay sevens captain, but that was only a year or two after that and it really showed in the way he trained and played."

The big break for McConnochie came when he was selected from university for the England Royals sevens development team. He made his full England debut last December in Dubai.

McConnochie is confident England can repeat their 2013 Wellington Sevens win.

"We have as good a chance as we ever have. We are fit and raring to go.

"A lot of the boys love this tournament and are excited to get back into it. For me it means quite a lot to come back after five years so it is quite special to play in this tournament.

"When I had that season playing [in Tauranga] it was definitely one of the top ones I wanted to make the squad for."

He is looking forward to playing against the All Blacks Sevens.

"Any New Zealand side that comes out are going to be world beaters on their day."

McConnochie laughed when asked if he was looking forward to taking on Sonny Bill Williams.

"Nah, nah it's easy. He is just another player on the pitch."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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