All Blacks fuelling Italian rugby ambitions

2019-08-31 17:43
Blues centre Anthony Tuitavake (Gallo Images)

Milan - For the European youngsters camp finished with an emotional presentation of the traditional All Blacks ceremonial "Haka".

For five days 42 youngsters - including three girls - aged 12 to 18 years had been immersed in Kiwi culture during the inaugural "All Blacks Clinic" on the outskirts of Milan.

Former players Anthony Tuitavake, 37, and 43-year-old Norm Maxwell - with 42 All Black caps between them - directed sessions in the classroom and on the pitch along with New Zealand coaches Evan Crawford and PJ Williams.

Run in conjunction with Rugby Milano, a club in the Italian second tier Serie A, the clinic attracted children from not only Italy but Greece, Belgium and Slovenia.

"It may sound arrogant but it's about bringing the game of rugby to Italy and to share the All Black way of doing things," said Crawford.

"Just like Italy have wonderful football teams like Juventus and AC Milan, in New Zealand rugby is in our blood."

There was the technical side of the game, but also how their culture has made New Zealand world champions a record three times.

The fact that Wales have ousted New Zealand from the top of the world rankings after a decade was also discussed along with the choices of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and Conor O'Shea's 13th-ranking Italians before the World Cup starting on September 20 in Japan.

"In New Zealand when you sing together it brings everybody together," continued Crawford.

"When the boys and girls arrived on Monday we started singing. They found that surprising but it's all about bringing people together than makes rugby great."

Maxwell, who racked up 36 Tests with the All Blacks as a rampaging lock forward, also stressed the community aspect of the game.

"We worked on the basics, but the first message of the New Zealand champions is linked to the concept of kindness, smile and encourage," he said.

"We start the day with a 'Buongiorno' and from there we build strength in the field.

"'Together' is the other key word. The All Blacks uses a Maori song to explain it - Tutira mai nga iwi, Tatou tatou e" (Stand together people, all of us, all of us).

"Always focus on your objective. Success depends on you. We are never alone but we take strength from our companions."

That emphasis on the wider aspects of rugby appears to have hit home.

"For us it has been enormously enriching on a human level," said clinic manager Francesco Cattaneo.

The personalised t-shirt and the rugby ball that all participants received at the end from their tutors, made it even more memorable.

"It was an unforgettable week," said 13-year-old Matteo Spertini delighted at being given Tuiavake's cap at the end.

Tuitavake, who retired last year having played for French clubs Racing 92 and Montpellier, where he now coaches youngsters, hopes it will be the start of something bigger.

"It was a special experience for me who has only recently started coaching," said Tuitavake, who played six Tests for the All Blacks in 2008.

"The All Blacks is the dream of every kid in New Zealand.

"I was the same age as these kids when I started rugby. I wasn't a typical rugby kid. I was very skinny, very slow, it took me a lot of time to get there.yes ok

"We have given them so much information that they can go away and practice. If I came back again, I would like to see the same kids but grown as different players.

"Three girls this time, next time hopefully we will have five times that number."

But while there have been All Black Clinics in Japan, Spain and South America, he does not expect one soon in France.

"The French don't want the All Blacks coming to France teaching them about rugby," he smiled.

Read more on:    all blacks  |  rwc 2019  |  rugby


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