AROUND 1000 young rugby enthusiasts and their families, as well as Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver will descend on Armidale this coming weekend for two days of rugby competition and camaraderie.
The Armidale School Rugby Carnival, which Wallabies coach Robbie Deans described as “a fantastic advertisement for the game” when he attended in 2009, is believed to be the biggest rugby tournament for 11-12-year-olds in Australia.
Around 1000 youngsters from 49 teams will travel with their coaches and families from across NSW and southern Queensland for the tenth annual carnival.
Held on eight ovals at TAS, the carnival attracts players and their families from as far as Orange, Sydney, the Sunshine Coast and southern Queensland.
School teams include well-known Sydney and Brisbane rugby nurseries, while clubs participating come predominantly from the north including Tamworth, Moree and Inverell, and Lismore and Alstonville on the north coast.
From 16 teams at the inaugural carnival in 2005, the event has grown to a capacity of 49 teams booked in this year, with available beds being the limiting factor.
Teams are to be accommodated in boarding houses at the three independent schools in Armidale, as well as Duval College and Drummond and Smith College at the University of New England.
In past years the event has attracted many former rugby greats including, as special guests, former Wallaby captain Nick Farr-Jones, current Wallaby Paddy Ryan, and former Australian assistant coach and current Scotland coach Scott Johnson.
Former Wallabies Phil Kearns and John Eales have also attended, in a private capacity as parents.
Pulver will be this year’s special guest at the carnival, honouring a commitment he made last year.
The event won the 2012 Armidale Dumaresq Council Australia Day award for contribution to sports and recreation in acknowledgement of the estimated $3million the event turns over in the Armidale economy every year.
The event is supported by the ARU, which has a partnership with TAS to deliver the Junior Gold Cup Development Program in northern NSW.
TAS Director of Co-Curricular Jason Lincoln said the carnival would be the first tour for many players.
“This is an event that can only be done with the support of the wider community, and brings together rugby players and supporters from a large section of eastern Australia in competition that is all about team spirit and camaraderie,” he said.