• Pirate speedster earns NZ Universities rugby selection

Pirate speedster earns NZ Universities rugby selection

Hawke's Bay's former two-time national under-19 beach sprint champion Ben Lewis gave up that summer pursuit to focus on gaining Magpies rugby selection.

The 20-year-old Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports Club outside back took a significant step towards his long-term goal when he was the only Hawke's Bay-based player selected in the New Zealand Universities rugby team this week. The national side will play a Canterbury XV in Christchurch on Tuesday, October 6 and a South Canterbury XV the following Friday in Christchurch.

Originally the New Zealand Universities side was scheduled to tour Japan but that trip was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Making the Magpies is one of my big goals and this selection is a stepping stone towards that," Lewis said today.

The former Hawke's Bay under-19 squad member and former Napier Boys' High School 1st XV player has yet to be told whether he will be used as a centre or winger with the Universities team.

"I'll be prepared for either role. I see there are several players coming back from last year's team and I'm a newbie so we will have to wait and see what happens," Lewis said.

"I've never played in the South Island so it's going to be exciting. They will be two tough teams."

Lewis scored eight tries in his first full season of premier club rugby this year. The Pirate club is the only one in the Bay affiliated to the New Zealand Universities Rugby organisation.

An O'Briens Aluminium worker, Lewis, won the national under-19 beach sprint titles in 2017 and '18. He was also a member of numerous national title-winning beach relay teams while representing the Ocean Beach Kiwi Surf Lifesaving Club.

Lindisfarne College product Jayden Falcon, who plays for Massey University in the Manawatu club competition, has also been selected in the New Zealand Universities team. He is a younger brother of former Magpies utility back Tiaan Falcon, a son of former Magpie Gordon Falcon and grandson of former Magpie Ray Falcon.