The touring British Independent Schools rugby team, the Barbarians, arrived in the country on Friday for their week-long tour of Zimbabwe in which they will take on four local school teams.
They will get down to business this afternoon for their match against a provincial side, the Harare Lions at the Jubilee Field Prince Edward School at 1600 hours.
The tour, which is the first of its kind by the elite Barbarians rugby squad in 15 years, is a huge boost for Zimbabwe’s junior rugby structures which are arguably among the best in the world.
The Barbarians team of 27 players, six management staff and seven supporters was welcomed by the deputy headmaster of St Johns College Atherston Squire, who was also involved in organising the tour.
In an interview with NewsDay Sport soon after arrival at the Harare International Airport, the Barbarians team manager and head of delegation Edwin Doran said: “We are very glad to be in Zimbabwe. Personally I haven’t been here for 10 years now and it feels nice to be back.
“Our aim is to re-establish the friendship between Zimbabwe schools rugby and UK schools rugby so that more UK schools tour the country in the near future.”
Doran said he hoped the matches would help Zimbabwe’s preparations for the Junior World Rugby Trophy as they had brought the cream of schools’ rugby in the UK.
“We have a talented bunch of youngsters who are all eager to do well and hopefully they will help local teams, especially the local Under-19s who will be going to the World Cup,” added Doran.
Doran, together with Don Campbell the headmaster of Lilfordia School, organised the tour.
“I used to run a company called Edwin Doran Sports Travel which was involved in the organisation of schools’ sports tours to Zimbabwe in the past.
“When we were looking to organise a tour this year we realised that we had not toured Zimbabwe for a long time and the idea to come here came about. I made contact with a man called Don Campbell, who is the headmaster at Lilfordia School and he had worked with me at a school in the UK where I once coached rugby.
“He briefed us about the situation in the country and referred us to Artherston Squire from St Johns and from then it was game on,” said Doran.
Squire, St Johns deputy headmaster, said the tour by the Barbarians would expose local junior rugby players to top competition at the highest level.
“The tour is hugely important as our junior teams tend to play against the same teams all the time but now we can measure ourselves against some of the top schools’ players in England.
“Beyond that our players can now get contacts in England which is good for their development,” Squire said.
After the first game against the Harare Lions today, the Barbarians side will leave for Lomagundi for a match against the Districts side which comprises schools from Mashonaland East and West on Monday.
From there they will return to the capital for the big one against the Zimbabwe Under-19 side at St John’s College on April 13, before concluding their tour in a match against the Goshawks Schools at the same venue two days later.
British Barbarians School Side Zimbabwe Tour Dates
Saturday: Harare Lions V British Barbarian Schools — Jubilee Field, Price Edward
April 11: Districts V British Barbarian Schools -Lomagundi College
April 13: Zimbabwe U-19 v British Barbarian
Schools — Honey Field, St Johns
April 15: Goshawks Schools v British Barbarian Schools — Honey Field, St Johns College