Old Golds to play matches in the Pacific Islands

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The North Otago rugby side will travel to the Pacific Islands in August for some pre-season matches in the lead-up to the 2014 Heartland Championship.

The August 2-13 tour of the Pacific Islands involves matches in both Fiji and Tonga.

It will be the first time the Old Golds have ventured overseas since their successful tour of Japan in 2008.

North Otago Rugby Union chief executive Colin Jackson said the tour was about giving something back to the Pacific Island rugby community here in Oamaru.

“The tour will be a pre-season build-up to the Heartland Championship. It’s also an opportunity to give something back too, as we are very grateful for the Pacific Island community who contribute so much to North Otago rugby,” Jackson said.

Heading to the Pacific Islands was a big thing for North Otago rugby, as it was a way for them to gain future players but also put the region’s rugby on the map, he said.

“In terms of playing over there, it’s really important for us. It will show off North Otago rugby, and hopefully show off our strong relationship with Pacific Islanders.”

He said the tour would also shape as a good recruitment process for all the clubs in Oamaru, with representatives from each squad involved in the travel group.

The Old Golds play three matches on their tour, with two in Fiji against club side Nadroga and Pacific Islands University before flying to Tonga, where they take on a Tonga XV in Nukualofa, before flying home on August 13.

Twenty-three players and five members of the management group, along with a supporters’ group, will attend the 11-day tour.

So far, 18 players have been picked in the squad for the tour, with five more players set to be finalised before the squad is released in a couple of weeks.

Jackson said the majority of the squad had already been picked.

“The squad which will travel to the Pacific Islands will be as close to the Heartland Championship squad as possible, apart from players who are unavailable.”

By BRAYDEN LINDSAY

PHOTO: JESSIE WAITE

HEADING OVERSEAS: The Old Golds have announced they will tour the Pacific Islands in August.