Rotorua Boys' High School rugby players have been pit against some of the best secondary school teams in Europe to test their players ahead of a busy season back home.
They have returned from their overseas tour, which involved travelling to Italy, France, Spain and Belgium to play six games. The tour was able to test players while also preparing the 33 players to be good young men as well as good rugby players.
Rotorua Boys' High School co-director of rugby Ngarimu Simpkins says there were many benefits taken from the trip, with a highlight for many being able to interact with some well-known old boys on the way.
"It was quite a hard programme because we did a lot of sightseeing as well but we played six really strong teams and we learned a lot," Simpkins says.
"I think the highlight was just the growth we saw in the boys throughout the whole tour. Obviously, the bonding and building a really strong culture was our main focus and I think we achieved that really well, but the rugby itself was just a fantastic opportunity and experience.
"We got a lot of education out of it, learning about the different countries we went to. It was also about developing good habits - punctuality and portraying the school in a good light because we were out in the public a lot."
He believes the experience could be "the magic ingredient" for this season. Secondary school sporting success goes in cycles as players come and go but with the majority of this year's First XV being in their final year of school, expectations are high at Rotorua Boys'.
"Seeing the boys really gel over the last few weeks has been huge for us as coaches and so we think that it will hold us in good stead for later on in the season."
In Italy, Rotorua Boys' played Roma Academia and Dogi U18 Selection Venice and won 22-12 and 50-5 respectively.
In Spain they beat RC Sant Cugat, Barcelona 118-7 and Club de Rugby Licea, Madrid 53-10.
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They lost both games in France, 7-34 to Montpelier Academy (U18-21) and 5-28 to Toulouse Academy but while there were boosted by some familiar faces.
"All the games were tough. One of the games in Italy was on an island in Venice, we had to catch a boat to the game, that was an amazing experience, having the sea as a backdrop.
"At Montpelier we were lucky enough to have old boys of our school Scott Crean and Liam Messam at the game. Liam ran our water bottles and Scott is involved as a strength and conditioning trainer for the top team at Montpelier.
"We were in Toulon [where Messam plays] the day before and we had a training run at his home ground, then he travelled over for our game the next day. That was a highlight, having the input of some old boys who gave a little bit of their time while we were in another country.
"It was quite special for our boys to see that not only can you make it as a rugby player in Europe but we had a strength and conditioning trainer, another element of the game, who gave his time too," Simpkins says.
The Rotorua Boys' High School First XV's preseason preparation will be put to the test when they host Wesley College for the Grinter Cup on Saturday.
Rotorua Boys' High School European Tour Results
Beat Roma Academia 22-12.
Beat Dogi U18 Selection Venice 50-5.
Lost to Montpelier Academy (U18-21) 7-34.
Lost to Toulouse Academy (U18-21) 5-28.
Beat RC Sant Cugat, Barcelona 118-7.
Beat Club de Rugby Licea, Madrid 53-10.