The Bay of Plenty Rugby Union has welcomed a group of 12 Colombian students and three staff to New Zealand as part of a Game on English edu-cports programme.

The students come from vulnerable communities such as Buenaventura, Apartad├│ and C├║cuta where rugby has become an option to spend their time far from violence, drugs and teen pregnancy.

Over the next month, the students will be taking part in daily English language classes, strength and conditioning sessions, mixed with rugby skills trainings and testing blocks held at the University of Waikato Adams Centre of High Performance.

Bay of Plenty Rugby Union partnered with Education New Zealand to deliver the Game On English edu-sports programme. Game On English combines intensive English language classes with top quality sports training.

Education New Zealand (ENZ) is New Zealand's government agency for international education. ENZ works to grow awareness of New Zealand as a study destination and to support New Zealand education providers and businesses taking their services and products abroad.

Bay of Plenty Rugby Union chief executive Mike Rogers said it was great to be a part of partnership which could assist with the growth and development of not only rugby and sporting skills ''but the opportunity for these young people to learn and improve their English as well as experiencing the values and culture of rugby in New Zealand".

Mr Rogers said the personal development involved allowed the students to build self-confidence, leadership skills and teamwork.

''It not only supports these skills but the growth and development of valuable and essential life skills,'' he said.

"This is a great opportunity for the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union to be connected with an international brand. It supports our strategic plan to focus on developing international relationships. This program not only benefits the Union but also the wider Bay of Plenty.

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''The Bay of Plenty is rich with Maori culture and surrounded by beautiful beaches and lakes. As a byproduct of this program, I have no doubt this type of activity will help develop future opportunities for tourism in the region".