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Wai-Bush set to tackle soldiers

Nick Mason on the attack for Wairarapa-Bush against Horowhenua-Kapiti in May. PHOTO/FILE

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
[email protected]

It is hoped one of the oldest international rugby trophies of all time will be on display when the New Zealand Army rugby team visits Masterton for a pre-season fixture against Wairarapa-Bush next month.

The two teams will meet on August 7, for what is the first of three consecutive pre-season matches for Wairarapa-Bush.

After the match against the army there will be matches against Wanganui and a Manawatu development squad.

The army team are planning on bringing the King George Cup to Masterton, which was first contested in 1919.

Military teams from Great Britain, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and South Africa took part in the King’s Cup.

The tournament was founded after World War I when King George V decided it was the perfect opportunity to hold a major international sports tournament and celebrate a military victory at the same time.

New Zealand and Great Britain made the final, and in a closely-fought match, the Kiwis came out on top, 9-3.

New Zealand Army skipper James Ryan receiving the King George Cup from King George V in 1919. PHOTO/SUPPLED

They were then awarded the cup by King George V.

The New Zealand Army team was captained by Masterton-born James Ryan who served with the Otago Infantry Regiment during World War I. Ryan played four tests for New Zealand from 1910 to 1914.

The cup is now played for annually between the New Zealand Army, the Royal New Zealand Navy and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Wairarapa-Bush coach Joe Harwood said the match against the army was an added bonus for his squad.

“I think it’s an exciting opportunity for us.

“It’s been a while since we’ve played them, but if it’s something we can make more of an annual fixture that would be fantastic.”

Harwood said his squad had been “pretty much finalised”, and it was hoped they would be able to make it public next Sunday when everybody had been informed.

It was just a matter of getting in touch with the players who had made it to make sure they were willing and ready to go.

“We have pretty much finalised the squad, it’s just a matter of the manager contacting those players and making sure they’re 100 per cent committed.

A ticket from the King’s Cup final in 1919. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“We’ll hopefully release that squad next Sunday, so our priority at this time is to let those people know they’ve made it.

“We’re aiming to contact all those players who were part of the squad to date, to let them know whether they have or have not made it, by next Sunday at the latest.”

The selectors were mindful of the Wairarapa-Bush squad distracting players from their jobs with their club teams, especially with the club season entering the play-off stage next weekend.

Harwood said players needed to be focused on playing well for their clubs at this stage of the season.

“For the guys that do get knocked out early, it’s about getting the extras under their belt.

“There will be plenty of emphasis on skills and fitness heading into those pre-season games.”

Harwood said the army match was a great opportunity for the team to play against different opposition in front of a home crowd, and he was hopeful his players would get through the next two weekends unscathed.

“The big emphasis for us is having guys who are committed and going to put the effort in throughout the whole campaign.”

Wairarapa-Bush will begin their Heartland Championship season with a match against Poverty Bay in Gisborne on August 25.

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