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From West Auckland to Paris: First XV get lifetime experience during Rugby World Cup

William Sangster

Massey High School First XV players inspired by lifetime trip

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

From West Auckland to the western continent of the world, students from Massey High School’s First XV have had the experience of a lifetime in the midst of Rugby World Cup fever.

The team flew to France for three weeks to experience the culture and rugby environment there. It was a chance to train and see what it is like to be a professional player in another country.

School dean and former Manu Samoa player, Saosili George Pisi, said the opportunity for the students to travel to Europe, particularly during a World Cup, was massive.

“They got to experience a new culture, the life of a professional athlete living abroad - opening up their eyes to the rest of the world.”

The team got to go to a World Cup match and also got the opportunity to meet current and former rugby players from Fiji, Argentina and Samoa.

Massey High has produced several rugby stars over the years; Ron Cribb, Troy Flavell, Anthony Tuitavake, Chris Vui and two other Pisi brothers - Lemalu Tusi and Ken Pisi.

‘It doesn’t matter what community you’re from or what your background is’

Most recently, Mark Tele’a, the first ex-student to make an All Blacks World Cup squad, will play in the final this weekend.

All Blacks player and former Massey High student Mark Tele'a. Photo / Photosport

Saosili, who is also the director of rugby at the school, said the boys are inspired by seeing someone from their community.

“It’s achievable. Their goal is achievable. It doesn’t matter what community you’re from or what your background is.”

First XV captain Norman Pesefea, who hails from Levī Saleimoa and Mulifanua in Samoa, acknowledges that the trip and seeing former students succeed at the highest level gave the team more confidence.

“It was a good experience for me and the boys to experience a new culture. To see someone from our school making it - it just shows us that we can do the same.”

Students from Massey High experience a touch of Europe. Photo / Supplied

The team tour included a few games against local French teams.

Senior rugby player Riki Taingahue, who has links to Rongowhakaata iwi, shared some of the cultural differences members of the team faced; including language barriers while billeted to local families.

“Some families we stayed with didn’t speak English. So we had to use Google Translate and lots of hand signals.”

L-R: First XV captain Norman Pesefea, director of rugby Saosili George Pisi, Leslie Faiva, deputy principal John Taurua and Riki Taingahue. Photo / Supplied

During the trip, Taingahue taught the school haka and brought some Māori culture with them; to thank people and to express who they are as people from Aotearoa.

“I felt almost like my tīpuna were standing behind me and backing me up.”

Deputy principal John Taurua also attended the trip with the students and believes it can transform lives.

“Some of our students who have gone on the overseas tour have ended up playing overseas at clubs. It has opened up their horizons of what they can do in the future.”

Massey High School hopes to reinstate a two-year cycle going forward to take their First XV and the development team overseas.

A tradition that spans 20 years has taken the school to Argentina, South Africa, Chile and around the Pacific region.

Saosili sees the bigger picture for the trip and the boys’ future.

“We’re wanting these boys to grow up to be good men, good sons and good husbands one day. It’s more of being good people and the life they’re going to lead.”

Hero image: West Auckland's Massey High School First XV rugby team were in France during Rugby World Cup fever. Photo / Supplied

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