IN a bid to help develop rugby at the grassroots level, the Dunedin-based Leslie Rugby donated rugby gear to isolated rural schools and women's rugby yesterday.
The distribution was facilitated by the New Zealand High Commission in partnership with Digicel Fiji.
Acting head of mission Mark Ramsden said 19 schools would benefit from the rugby gear.
These schools, he added, were from Yasawa Islands, Tailevu, Savusavu, Labasa, Taveuni, Gau Island, Namosi, Rakiraki and Rotuma.
The rugby items include shorts, vests, head gear, shoulder pads, rugby balls and ball pumps.
"Rugby is a vital linkage between New Zealand and Fiji. There are no two countries where rugby plays such an important part in our national identity," Mr Ramsden said.
"We are pleased to be involved in further strengthening this bond by helping remote schools with active rugby teams and women's rugby."
Fiji Women's Rugby Union president Paulini Tamatasasa said the rugby gear would help struggling clubs in the country.
"Especially with most of them (the players) are unemployed, this assistance is really a boost for women's rugby as far as the clubs are concerned."
The delivery of 30 cartons of rugby gear from New Zealand to Fiji was made possible through the support of New Zealand-based shipping company Matson South Pacific Limited.
Former All Black Michael Jones is the company's strategic development manager for the South Pacific and was instrumental in this exercise.
Pacifica Shipping, owned at the time by the Skeggs Group, which also manages the Port Denarau Marina, was also involved in transporting the gear from Dunedin to Auckland. Leslie Rugby is headed by former Otago Highlanders and Scotland player John Leslie.