The biggest name in Australian rugby is set to inspire a thousand of the sport’s youngest enthusiasts when he makes a special guest appearance at the 14th TAS Rugby Carnival, to be held at The Armidale School on 14-15 April.
Wallabies Head Coach Michael Cheika will be the special guest at the official presentation on Sunday 15 April at 12noon, following the finals that morning.
Cheika will celebrate grassroots rugby with players, coaches and supporters attending the carnival – the largest rugby carnival for under 12s in Australia, which this year has attracted44 teams from 21 schools and 16 clubs from across three states. Cheika won’t be the only one making a debut appearance at the carnival; crossing the continent will be the Perth-based Western Spirit, one of three teams competing for the first time.
Others to make the big trip include players, coaches and supporters from Dalby and the Sunshine Coast in the north, to the NSW Southern Highlands. From 16 teams at the inaugural carnival in 2005, the carnival has grown to include city teams including well-known Sydney and Brisbane school and club rugby nurseries and junior clubs including Moree, Inverell and Tamworth from the New England North West region.
Over the two days, 108 games of rugby will be played on eight school ovals, which have been proudly prepared by TAS grounds staff over recent weeks. There are five divisions, based on teams of similar ability. A highlight of each carnival is the Spirit of Rugby relay, a foot race comprising four players from every team running the length of the school’s Backfield.
Among those who have attended as either special guests or in a private capacity as parents, are former Wallaby greats Nick Farr-Jones, Paddy Ryan, Phil Kearns, John Eales and Rod Kafer, and former Rugby Australia CEO Mr Bill Pulver who was the special guest in 2014.
Carnival convenor Mr Will Caldwell said the continued popularity of the carnival is testament to a universal love of the game, the camaraderie of the sport, and the sense of community it engenders.
“For many players this is their first time away on tour and that is exciting in itself, creating lifelong memories. It provides the rare opportunity for school and club teams to come together in a friendly atmosphere, and also reflects the enormous spirit of our wider school community who work incredibly hard to make it happen so smoothly,” he said.