Top marks for diplomacy go to Hastings Boys' High School first XV rugby team manager Jason Bird.

None of his national title-winning side made the 25-strong New Zealand Schools team announced on Thursday. Instead of giving the selectors a blast Bird pointed out how proud his school was of first five-eighth Latrell Ah Kiong and lock Julian Goerke for making the 25-strong New Zealand Schools Barbarians team and co-captain and second five-eighth Jordan Thompson-Dunn and fullback Mercedes Hodge for gaining New Zealand Maori under-18 team selection.

"Selections are always a point of contention. We don't sit in the selection room," Bird said.

"We are still proud of what the team achieved this year," Bird added.


Ah Kiong, a member of the world title-winning New Zealand Secondary Schools Sevens team last year, has to be considered unlucky to miss out on the top squad. He was the player-of-the-match in both of the HBHS team's games at the National Top Four tournament last weekend, their 11-10 win against Hamilton Boys' High School in the semifinal and 27-14 victory against King's College of Auckland in the final.

"I have to admit I'm disappointed for Latrell but at the same time I'm looking forward to him putting his best foot forward for the Barbarians," his father, Herman Ah Kiong, said.

A Maddison Trophy, Nash Cup and Spillane Cup winner with Napier Old Boys Marist who also played premier club rugby for Clive and MAC, Ah Kiong snr, confirmed his son will be staying in the Bay next year.

"We left the decision up to him. While he had a great offer from Waikato Latrell said he had an awesome relationship with the Magpies coaches as well as Jason Shoemark at the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union's Academy so there was no need for him to leave home."

When it was put to Ah Kiong snr that his son could have a tough job putting in-form Magpies pivot Lincoln McClutchie, a product of the 2017 national title-winning HBHS first XV, out of a starting role for the Magpies in the near future Ah Kiong snr replied:

"I'm looking forward to the day when Lincoln is at 10 for the Magpies and Latrell is at fullback."

His son, who is a grandson of former Magpie and MAC midfield back Wini Smiler, will return to the Havelock North club for another summer of sevens and is tossing up between Havelock North and Clive for 15s.

New Zealand Schools' coach Mark Hammett commended the programme's talent spotters across the country, noting they had made the job of selecting a squad of just 25 very difficult.


"It's a massive undertaking from the talent identification staff across the country. It's a long process and we have been really impressed with the players. We are seeing well-run school programmes which means the fundamental skills these players have, are top notch."

Hammett said the team had a mixture of in-form players alongside those who have shown great potential.

Both the New Zealand Schools and New Zealand Schools Barbarians teams will assemble in Palmerston North for a match of three periods against each other on September 26 before travelling to Hamilton for games against Fiji Schools and the Australia under-18s.

The HBHS first XV will again be part of the Hastings Blossom Parade today as they were when they last won the National Top Four title in 2017.