Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Sir Brian Lochore has spoken about the importance of sport in rural areas ahead of this week's Norwood Rural Sports Awards.
Lochore said the awards was not only a great opportunity to celebrate athletic achievement, but also a chance to highlight the importance of rural New Zealand's contribution to international sport.
"I think ... [we've] got to make the urban people aware of how many great sportsmen start [out] in the country areas," he told Jamie Mackay on The Country.
"It's showing New Zealand that the ... country is really important in terms of international sport and a lot of those kids went to primary schools in the country ... it's just fantastic that they're getting some exposure at this time."
The former All Blacks captain agreed when Mackay suggested rugby was the backbone or rural communities, and confessed he had "always batted on about that with the New Zealand Rugby Union."
"The key to rugby in the country areas is the Heartland competition, and if they fiddle around with that and make it weak, that'll further make the country areas weaker."
"It brings all the people together on a Saturday, not only the parents - all the little kids as well."
And what does he think about the inaugural Allflex Sir Brian Lochore Outstanding Sportsperson from a Rural Background Award?
Although Lochore said he wholeheartedly supported the reasoning behind the award, he remained humble about having an award named after him.
"I absolutely support the contest, it is a great thing to have - I'm not so sure it should be called what it's called."
The Norwood Rural Sports Awards will be held at Awapuni Racecourse this Friday night, ahead of the Hilux New Zealand Rural Games in Palmerston North this weekend.