In an uncanny piece of timing, a review into secondary school rugby was completed in draft form just days before a poaching scandal enveloped one of the country's flagship rugby schools.

New Zealand Rugby launched the review in June and the aim was to try to find the reasons behind falling participation numbers and, most importantly, determine who should govern schoolboy rugby.

"The review process is viewed as a collaborative effort of the rugby community, with the aim of providing a world-leading secondary school rugby system which ensures teenagers develop a life-long love of rugby," a NZ Rugby statement said.

The principals of many leading rugby schools have long believed the NZR is trying to muscle their way through the gates to gain control of the sport and they have vowed to resist any attempts.

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One well-placed school source said the principals have a deep distrust of NZ Rugby administrators. On the other hand, NZ Rugby is increasingly frustrated at the schools' apparent powerlessness to address declining playing numbers.

Speaking to the Herald earlier this year, NZ Rugby's Steve Lancaster said: "We certainly see a big drop-off in the high school years.

"That's something we're concerned about. One of the factors is the performance pathway has got deeper into the school environment, so young men are realising early in their education whether they are in or out or that pathway."

St Kentigern College have effectively been kicked out of the top 1A First XV competition in Auckland. Photo / Photosport
St Kentigern College have effectively been kicked out of the top 1A First XV competition in Auckland. Photo / Photosport

The stoush over St Kentigern College's recruitment practices, described by Mt Albert Grammar principal Pat Drumm as "outrageous", has shone an unwanted spotlight on the sport and on the ethics of certain schools.

NZ Rugby have offered to broker a deal between schools who have agreed to boycott games against St Kents – at last count 10 from Auckland's 1A competition, plus the Super Eight schools – but it is unlikely their help will be sought in light of a letter that surfaced from the national body that appears to endorse the St Kents programme.

Debate has raged about the rights and wrongs of talent recruitment since the Herald broke the news on Wednesday that a coalition of schools had agreed to boycott St Kents.

The private school has a number of wealthy backers and received support from ex-student and All Black Jerome Kaino yesterday.

In an Instagram post the former flanker said: "People like myself, John Afoa, Joe Rokocoko [and you will know others] would possibly never have achieved what we have without the opportunity presented by St Kentigern College, and that's the same for many young men given opportunities by other schools along the way," he wrote.

"If the rules of today don't fit then surely sit around a table and work them out to retain the integrity of the competition."

Former pupil and All Blacks veteran Jerome Kaino has backed St Kents. Photo / Photosport
Former pupil and All Blacks veteran Jerome Kaino has backed St Kents. Photo / Photosport

In a rebuke to the school, however, Sport NZ CEO Peter Miskimmin told the Herald his organisation "stands" with the 10 principals who are refusing to play St Kents.

The Secondary Schools Rugby review was originally expected to be tabled in front of the board this month.

The poaching scandal has only added to the urgency.