S'porean boys learning their rugby ropes the All Blacks way

Marcus Ng (second from left) and Muhammad Nur Solihin Mansor (third from right) had a chance to meet All Blacks (from left) Jerome Kaino, Mardie Savea, and Aaron Smith during their training stint in Wellington. At right is SRU senior rugby developmen
Marcus Ng (second from left) and Muhammad Nur Solihin Mansor (third from right) had a chance to meet All Blacks (from left) Jerome Kaino, Mardie Savea, and Aaron Smith during their training stint in Wellington. At right is SRU senior rugby developmental officer Zaki Mahmood, who accompanied the duo on the 16-day trip. PHOTO: RUGBY SINGAPORE

They watched in awe at Wellington's Westpac Stadium where rugby world champions New Zealand thrashed Wales 46-6 last Friday in a Test match.

As if that was not exciting enough, 16-year-olds Marcus Ng and Muhammad Nur Solihin Mansor also saw the All Blacks train behind closed doors and even met them up close and personal.

"It was a real eye opener to see how the world champions train," said Solihin. "Meeting the All Blacks in person and seeing how they conduct themselves in training really motivates and reminds me to work hard on the basics."

Solihin also met his idol, winger Julian Savea. "I managed to get an autograph and a picture. Got to wish him luck for his season and it felt unreal to meet someone I see a lot on TV."

The boys returned to Singapore on Saturday after a 16-day training stint in Wellington under the Heroes in the Making programme by the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) and Rugby Singapore.

They earned the rare opportunity after impressing former New Zealand Sevens star Scott Waldrom and a selection panel in trials held last November.

Besides training with world-class coaches at Petone Rugby Football Club, a constituent club of the Wellington Rugby Football Union, the duo also pitted their skills against Kiwi youths by appearing for Hutt Valley High School.

Against Wainui College and St Pats Town, Marcus scored a try in both games.

He said: "It was inspiring to live and train in Wellington. It was a great experience training and playing against players older than us .

"Their playing standard is higher and every game is very competitive. You are playing against very talented players but at the same time, your team-mates are very skillful too."

SRU senior rugby developmental officer Zaki Mahmood, who accompanied the boys on the trip, added: "Being able to see it with their own eyes how people in New Zealand carry themselves during training and matches, they understand now that the small details can make a lot of difference in performance."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2016, with the headline 'S'porean boys learning their rugby ropes the All Blacks way'. Print Edition | Subscribe