The Webb Ellis Cup was the star attraction at four Counties Manukau high schools yesterday as a thank you to young local rugby players.

Rugby players from Strathallan College, Papakura High School, Wesley College and Tuakau College got up close to the glittering gold prize, learnt about its history and took selfies with the Rugby World Cup, hoisted by Richie McCaw on October 31.

New Zealand Rugby general manager community rugby and provincial union rugby Brent Anderson said NZR wanted to share the Cup with communities all over New Zealand and targeting teenagers was the first stage of their programme.

"The local visits were part of a drive to sign up teenagers for rugby around New Zealand. It's about saying thanks for playing rugby and to give players an opportunity to get up close with the ultimate rugby prize."


He said rugby provided young people with skills that can set them up for life.

Rugby's a great way to keep fit and have fun with your mates, but more than that, kids learn commitment, to be reliable and accountable to others, and become part of a community.

"Teenagers tell us what they love about playing rugby is the time they get to spend with their mates, away from teachers and parents and being independent and just being themselves. Those friendships cemented on the rugby field are often lifelong - speaking from personal experience."

Anderson said 42,072 teenagers signed up for rugby in 2015 and having more teenagers was a particular focus for New Zealand Rugby.

"This year we're challenging high schools to sign up one more team. Often schools don't have quite enough players to make up an extra team so they share them around existing teams, giving everyone less game time. With a bit of extra effort we hope to encourage enough kids to make another team. The schools who achieve it will win a special rugby prize pack and go in the draw to win a visit from the All Blacks.

"Sonny Bill Williams is our ambassador for teenage rugby and he'll be visiting schools this year and we even have a TV show just for teenagers - Random Rugby TV," Anderson said.