Cop­pers’ clash will cap­ture crowd in­ter­est

Central Leader - - News - By Janie Smith

Po­lice will swap body ar­mour and ba­tons for jer­seys and boots this week­end.

The New Zealand Po­lice rugby team take on their Aus­tralian coun­ter­parts to­mor­row at Grib­ble­hirst Park in San­dring­ham.

De­spite win­ning 74-0 last year in Melbourne be­fore an All Black test, con­sta­ble Keki Wil­son says they are ex­pect­ing a chal­lenge.

“The score­line doesn’t re­ally re­flect how hard it was last year. They were still com­pet­i­tive. Our moves just seemed to come off much bet­ter than theirs.”

The op­po­si­tion are also play­ing a se­ries of games in the lead-up to the match and will be bet­ter pre­pared this time.

Prepa­ra­tion has been tricky for the Ki­wis. With play­ers scat­tered around the coun­try they got to­gether for one prac­tice yes­ter­day, says Mr Wil­son.

“We’re look­ing for­ward to it, we’re very ex­cited.”

He says team coach, de­tec­tive se­nior sergeant Si­mon Scott, who also coaches the Pon­sonby pre­mier rugby team, will have a game plan for the match.

The Pon­sonby team will be play­ing on the same day in the Gal­la­her Shield semi­fi­nal.

For­mer War­riors player con­sta­ble Tone Tatupu is swap­ping codes to play on the wing.

He has also played a few games with the Auck­land po­lice team and is used to the po­si­tion.

Con­sta­ble James Asekona, who plays flanker, also plays club rugby for Waitakere and is look­ing for­ward to tak­ing on the Aus­tralians again.

All three of­fi­cers are part of the cen­tral Auck­land com­mu­nity ac­tion team.

Po­lice rugby di­rec­tor se­nior con­sta­ble Barry Gal­lagher, a for­mer ju­nior All Black, says the game was meant to be played be­fore a sec­ondary schools first 15 game at Sa­cred Heart Col­lege.

The po­lice spon­sor Auck­land’s sec­ondary schools first 15 rugby com­pe­ti­tion, but bad weather forced a venue change.

“Two games on the grounds would have ru­ined them.”

He is con­fi­dent of an­other vic­tory, but says the Aus­tralians will be tough op­po­si­tion.

All Black as­sis­tant coach and for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer Steve Hansen is the New Zealand team’s pa­tron and ar­ranged for them to play the All Blacks last year in the lead-up to the World Cup.

“They whipped us, but it was an awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Mr Wil­son.

The Auck­land po­lice pipe band will play be­fore the game and dur­ing half time for en­ter­tain­ment.

Kick­off is at 12.30pm to­mor­row.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Scrum time: Con­sta­bles James Asekona, Keki Wil­son and Tone Tatupu are tak­ing on the Aussies as part of the New Zealand Po­lice rugby team.

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