Rotorua has been invited to send a high school rugby team to its Japanese sister city Beppu to help boost interest in the sport ahead of the next Rugby World Cup.
The sister city's new mayor, Yasuhiro Nagano, received news during his visit to Rotorua this week that Beppu will be a host city during the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
"I was very pleased to be able to congratulate Beppu on its successful bid to be a world cup host city," Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said.
"Their successful bid is due to not only their infrastructure but their attributes as a tourist destination with geothermal and spa and wellness at its heart - very much like Rotorua."
After sharing the news with his Rotorua hosts, mayor Nagano confirmed an invitation for Rotorua to send a schoolboy rugby team, representative of all local high schools, during the build up to the World Cup. Beppu will pay for the trip, a council spokeswoman confirmed.
"Having secured the rights to be a host city, Beppu now needs to get its community involved and mobilised so they need to generate wider interest in rugby," Mrs Chadwick said.
"Mayor Nagano saw the potential for a sister city team visit to help boost their efforts in that respect so it's pretty exciting for Rotorua.
"They've been here with rugby teams in the past so it's a nice exchange and I'm rapt Western Heights High School has taken on the task of co-ordinating this on Rotorua's behalf."
Western Heights High School PE teacher in charge of rugby Carleen James will co-ordinate the trip and bring in players from other schools.
Western Heights High School was approached because of a long-term link with a high school in Beppu and Mrs James said the invitation was "very exciting" and would provide a great experience for the students who go.
"The plan is we'll play against a regional high school side from Beppu and there'll be a training session with their team. Also, our coaches will work with coaches in the Oita prefecture to help boost rugby in the region.
"Our boys will be in home stays while we're there so they'll also have that cultural connection which will add to the experience."