Rugby coaches and players in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory are getting a helping hand from New Zealand rugby in early October when two coaches from the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) pay a week-long visit.
High Performance Talent Identification Manager Chris Stirling who has coached professionally overseas and Game Development Manager Richard Skelly will hold a week of coaching clinics.
The visit is being coordinated by the Israel Rugby Union with the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
"This is an exciting opportunity and underlines our commitment to helping develop the game around the world," said NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew.
"We had an approach from Israel and are delighted we can help out a country where rugby has a small base, but is growing in popularity."
Israel is very much a new frontier for rugby with just 15 clubs and around 1,000 players compared to New Zealand which boasts more than 500 clubs and nearly 150,000 players. The Israel Rugby Union was set up in the 1970s by migrants from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa who were keen to revitalise interest in the sport whose fortunes had ebbed since the time of British colonial rule.
"New Zealand coaches are in demand around the world and this visit further underlines our expertise," said Tew.
Last year according to the 2012 Rugby Almanack 52 New Zealand coaches were working with top tier professional and national teams in 23 countries.
Israel Rugby Union President Menachem Ben-Menachem said the visit was hugely important for the union.
"We in the Israeli rugby community could only dream of such a great opportunity to have top coaches from the land of the All Blacks and of genuine rugby passion come to help us. We are looking forward to that experience and we thank the New Zealand Rugby Union for making it possible."
Skelly and Stirling will work with the Israel national team and hold training clinics for players and coaches from the Israeli domestic competition.
The coaches will also spend time in the West Bank where they will work with Palestinian players and coaches. Members of the local New Zealand community will also attend to support the clinic.
The Israel national team is ranked 56 in the world, and is currently preparing to play Serbia in the European Nations Cup on 13 October which is also part of qualifying rounds for Rugby World Cup 2015.
"We will be spending a lot of time with teenage players in particular who are really going to want to learn so it's going to be a very satisfying experience," said Chris Stirling.
"We've been really impressed with the professionalism shown by the Israel Rugby Union given the challenges they face as a small union. They've put together a fantastic programme so we're really excited to be going to a place where rugby has so much potential to grow."
Richard Skelly said there was much the NZRU would be able to share with players and coaches from the no contact form of the game - Rippa Rugby - and upwards.
"The NZRU has developed a very sophisticated coaching resource - the online Coaching Tool Box. In particular we will be sharing with coaches our world leading Rugby Smart course which we developed with ACC to encourage safe playing techniques.
"These resources will ensure the coaches we meet will be much better equipped to help develop the game there in the years ahead."
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