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In June and July of 1996, the fifth High School All-Americans embarked on a tour to New Zealand, a 21-day, six match local schedule. The squad was comprised of 26-players from 16 clubs and ten states. Mark Bullock and Tony Smeeth served as coaches, and Rex Norris acted as manager. George Hook, National Coaching Director, aided in the selection process.
The team featured five returnees from the 1995 group that toured Australia, including, Mike Beckner, Dan Kemp, John Hagglund, Ian Scrymigour, and Don Younger.
The All Americans went 1-5 on the tour, losing the first five games:
- East Bay of Plenty 49 – USA 15
- King County 16 – USA 5
- Wairarapa Bush 62 – USA 5
- Horowhenua 30 – USA 8
- Wanganui 38 – USA 12
- USA 22 – Thames Valley 5
The Thames Valley win was especially sweet since they had crushed the USA 52-3 in the first High School tour match of 1992.
Basically, these were contests between young Americans who had played rugby for three or four years versus native Kiwis who played 30 games annually since they were six years old. The skill levels were vastly different.
Smeeth summed up the reason for the final match win: “In the last game, our skill level was quite good, and the guys began to feel comfortable playing at a pace many times quicker than at home.”
In 1997, the All-Americans would return to Australia.