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Sideline Conversions 12 February (some rugby news and information to start the week)

Paremata-Plimmerton competed at the National Club 7s tournament on Saturday – dipping out in their semi-final against Auckland University despite drawing. More details below. PHOTO: Paremata-Plimmerton Facebook 

After a long, languid off-season, 15s rugby returns to Wellington and for Wellington teams this coming Friday and Saturday.

The Hurricanes squad faces Moana Pasifika at the NZCIS on Friday at 2.3opm. More details on the match to come during the week on Hurricanes channels.

The Wellington Academy steps out to play the Hawke’s Bay Academy this coming Saturday as part of the Hurricanes Academy tri-series also involving Manawatu. This match is at Massey University at 12.00pm on Saturday.

A Manawatu ‘High Performance’ side plays a Pacific Island Rugby Development team from Bay of Plenty at Massey University at 12.oopm on Saturday.


Hosts Karaka won Saturday’s Middlesex Wakefield Cup National Club 7s, with the Counties club running away from a plucky Auckland University side to win the decider by 26-12.

Earlier Karaka and Wellington champions Paremata-Plimmerton had gone unbeaten in pool play with the latter defeating Manurewa (21-14), Christchurch Marist Albion (38-7), Northcote (14-10), and Pukekohe (39-0).

Karaka would account for Manurewa by 26-12 in their semifinal while the Hammerheads charge was ended by the tournament rules as they drew 14-all with the students but without extra time being played dipped out on account of University scoring the first try.


It is only pre-season and it was the first hit-out against anyone other than themselves, but the scoreboard says the Hurricanes lost to the Highlanders 52-19 in Dunedin on Saturday.

The game was played in three thirds of 30 minutes each. In front of 4,000 supporters, the Highlanders won 7 tries to 3 and led 17-5 after the first 30 minutes and 38-12 after the second. The local ODT report described new winger Timoci Tavatavanawai as the main talking point: “His power and explosive attacking ability give the Highlanders a weapon they have not had in years, while he also showed his physicality on defence.”


The opening round of the Hurricanes Academy tri-series was played on Saturday in Napier, with the Hawke’s Bay Academy defeating the Manawatu Academy 48-36. No further information about the game received or found online, but with 84 points scored obviously glorious attacking play was the order of the day. These games double at Hurricanes U20s trials.


The Hurricanes fielded 38 players in their pre-season loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin. Had they taken another 15 they’d have the same size roster as the two teams competing in the Super Bowl today.


In 2016 the Hurricanes beat the Crusaders 74-7 in pre-season but lost their opening round regular season fixture 10-52 to the Brumbies. The Hurricanes later went on to win their first Super Rugby title.


Why are the Hurricanes playing at 2.30pm this Friday and not 3.30pm or 4.30pm or later? When schools are out and when the work week is winding down and more people, especially the youth, can see them?


A Super Rugby dark horse? What about the Brumbies.


Taylor Swift for President.


Warren Gatland has lost 86 internationals as a coach.

Since losing to Fiji at Twickenham last year, England has won eight of nine test matches. That includes five games by less than a converted try.



Reports that former Napier Boys’ High School and Marist St Pat’s and current Magpies hooker Tyrone Thompson is heading to the NRL. His brother Leo, formerly a midfielder, is already plying his trade in that competition.

Several recent Wellington club rugby players going down the NRL route as well, such as previously documented Toby Crosby (Upper Hutt Rams) and Garry Naitini (Avalon). It’s superb for these players involved, but our question is why doesn’t that sport recruit from its own ranks? The rugby union code doesn’t have the player base it used to, and needs these guys to stay in the game.


It’s coming up to six months since the Hurricanes tweeted anything from their long-standing Twitter/X account.


The All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens have welcomed young talent into their programmes with their 2024 season is in full swing.

Jayden Keelan (College Old Boys, Manawatu) and Justine McGregor (Petone, Wellington) are the newest faces to move to the sevens base in Mt Maunganui.

At just 17-years-old Justine McGregor is the latest school-girl sensation* to graduate into the Black Ferns Sevens, in her first year out of St Marys College. With two seasons of Farah Palmer Cup under her belt, McGregor was also part of the Black Ferns XV squad and the New Zealand Under 18 Girls Sevens team in 2023.

Black Ferns Sevens Coach Cory Sweeney said McGregor has incredible promise.

“Justine has been a standout performer in the secondary schools scene and has not taken a backward step since joining us. It’s obvious that she has had some great support and coaching in her conditioning and rugby; we are proud of how she has adapted in our environment and she’s already putting her hand up for selection,” said Sweeney.

The Black Ferns Sevens also celebrate the return of Dhys Faleafaga to the squad. The powerful forward debuted in the black jersey in 2019 and returns to the team after the birth of her twin sons. Faleafaga, like McGregor, is also a former student of St Mary’s College.

*Use of hyperbole in the NZR media release, not ours.

Our story last year for College Sport Wellington and Club Rugby is below:

Justine McGregor selected as youngest player in Black Ferns XV


Last week legendary Welsh first-five Barry John passed away, aged 79. John, who was born in in the valleys of Wales and grew up speaking Welsh as his first language, went on two tours with the British and Irish Lions. His first in 1968 to South Africa was cut short by injury, but his second was to New Zealand in 1971. This was their famous tour, which included beating Wellington 47-9, a result that saw the home side and players turn into a positive for the future.

John wrote the following on page 45 of his autobiography The Barry John Story, which we believe is as relevant today in the age of corporate rugby than it was then:

“It is the long-term club player who is the backbone of rugby. The men who train hard and make sacrifices to play for the local side in all conditions for ten years or more – and without the facilities enjoyed by players in major clubs – are the men who have my total respect. In my experience they are the most knowledgeable people in rugby.”

Read our previous story about the aforementioned international touring match in 1971:


Dom Bird retired in the off-season. What a difference he made to the Wellington Lions in their 2022 Premiership success. Bird played 166 first-class matches and won 125 of them. Bird (3 Tests) was the tallest ever All Black (2.06 cm). In 2017 Bird played against the All Blacks for the Barbarians at Twickenham. The tallest player to ever face the All Blacks was Scottish lock Richard Metcalfe. He was 7 feet (213 cm) when he faced the All Blacks in a 20-69 loss in Dunedin in 2000. Metcalfe played seven Tests.


Since the round ball code is obsessed by crowd figures, how come they could only attract circa 12,000 to their Waitangi Day top of the table clash, falling away to half that in their latest fixture on the weekend? Hurricanes officials could be getting nervous looking at those numbers, and they are marketing a team sans up to three of their best players ever in Ardie Savea, Dane Coles and TJ Perenara (who is hopefully coming back soon).


Change is one step closer for New Zealand Rugby after the 26 provincial unions “reached a consensus” on governance reforms that could shake up the organisation.

The provincial unions met in Wellington on Friday to consider a proposal from NZ Rugby chair Dame Patsy Reddy, following the Governance Review published last August.

After the meeting, the provincial unions and New Zealand Māori Rugby Board said that they agreed with many of the review’s “positions” and “expect to provide the finalised details of the governance model in due course”.

“Today the Provincial Union chairs – as kaitiaki of the New Zealand rugby community – worked alongside the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board (NZMRB) to constructively resolve the remaining open areas of the Governance Review,” read a statement on behalf of the 26 provincial union chairs and New Zealand Māori Rugby Board.

“The PUs and NZMRB considered a Governance Review proposal and reached a consensus on the principles expressed in it

“The hui confirmed that many of the Review’s positions are commonly agreed and align with our responsibilities as kaitiaki of the community game.

“As voting members, the PUs and NZMRB are mindful of the responsibilities to their communities and the wider rugby family and have worked in good faith to consider the recommendations of the review.

“We will continue to progress the work undertaken to enable the constitutional adoption of the changes and – alongside New Zealand Rugby – expect to provide the finalised details of the governance model in due course.”

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