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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Noah Perelini aims to show New Zealand Schools rugby selectors 'they have to pick me'

Former Repton pupil hoping to impress for King's College when he returns to New Zealand to continue his studies

Noah Perelini headed back from Dubai at the weekend, ahead of a new school year that he hopes will result in selection for the New Zealand Schools team. Courtesy Apollo Perelini Skills Academy
Noah Perelini headed back from Dubai at the weekend, ahead of a new school year that he hopes will result in selection for the New Zealand Schools team. Courtesy Apollo Perelini Skills Academy

Noah Perelini headed back from the UAE to boarding school in New Zealand this week, ahead of an academic year that he hopes will end in national representative honours.

The former Repton, Dubai pupil chose to move to Auckland in 2016, with a view to developing his rugby career alongside his studies.

Perelini, 17, has quickly forged a reputation for himself of a back-row forward of great promise. As an inductee of the academy of the Blues Super Rugby franchise, he has discussed a pathway to the professional game, and even spent time training alongside the New Zealand Under 20s side last season.

Now in the final year of his A levels, he is hoping to earn selection for the New Zealand Schools representative side by impressing for King’s College. His prospects have been endorsed by his academy coaches.

Noah Perelini, centre, during a rugby training session with his father Apollo Perelini, right, at Repton school in Dubai in January 2017. Pawan Singh / The National
Noah Perelini, centre, during a rugby training session with his father Apollo Perelini, right, at Repton school in Dubai in January 2017. Pawan Singh / The National

“I was in the gym, sitting on the rowing machine, when I got a call from the academy selector at the Blues,” Perelini said, at the end of his seven-week school holiday at home in Dubai.

“He said me and five other boys from within the Auckland region have been identified as the guys who are most likely to make New Zealand Schools this year.

“The fact the Blues think I am able to make it is obviously a good confidence booster, but I am not there yet.

“Just because they have said that, doesn’t mean I am going to make it. I still have to work hard, I still have to earn it. I want to show the selectors they have to pick me, and that there can’t be any argument.”

The young openside flanker enjoys trying to impress. Several national selectors were at a Blues academy training camp last summer, as well as the ensuing match against the Chiefs, which the Auckland side won convincingly.

“It was a really good experience, but also a little intimidating,” Perelini said.

“When we were doing our testing during the week, the New Zealand selectors would come to all the camps.

“We were doing our fitness testing, and at the end, where you run to and then turn back, there were four or five selectors standing there with their notebooks and iPads, talking to each other. It was as though they were trying to psyche you out.

“That was intimidating, but also really good having them there, because it made you push harder.”

Noah Perelini, left, and rugby coach father Apollo Perelini. Apollo, a former dual code rugby international, had intended to send his son to boaridng school in England to continue his rugby education but Noah insisted on moving to New Zealand. Pawan Singh / The National
Noah Perelini, left, and rugby coach father Apollo Perelini. Apollo, a former dual code rugby international, had intended to send his son to boaridng school in England to continue his rugby education but Noah insisted on moving to New Zealand. Pawan Singh / The National

The UK-born teen is qualified to play internationally for each of England, Scotland, Samoa, and New Zealand, but his dream is to become an All Black.

The Auckland secondary schools competition has televised matches, and is regarded as arguably the most competitive tournament of its type in the world. It has been a steady production line for future New Zealand internationals in the past.

His father, Apollo Perelini, who is the UAE coach, says he had initially earmarked his son for a move to England, where he retains a number of associations having played at the top level in both union and league in the past.

“Deep down inside, I think he knew he had the ability, but I needed him to find that himself, and that wasn’t until he decided he wanted to go to New Zealand,” Apollo said.

“We had decided we wanted to send him to boarding school in England, but he turned around and said he wanted to go to New Zealand. That was his drive.

“He said that if he wanted to be the best, he had to go to New Zealand. He is following his dream by going there.

"At the end of the day, he is the one who has pushed himself, and determined his pathway.”

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Apollo, who has seen several players graduate to the top level of the game via his academy coaching, believes his son has the capabilities to make it as a professional player, too.

“I see a lot of kids through my experience with junior rugby,” he said.

“When I was at Sale Sharks, I had a lot of boys who eventually made England, like Mark Cueto, Charlie Hodgson and Ben Foden. All those boys came through the academy system I was involved with.

“So I knew what to look for in terms of players who could make it, and I made that same judgment with my kid, as well.”