There will be plenty of horsing around when New Zealand takes the rugby field against England later this month.
To clarify, we’re not talking about the World Cup. Players on this rugby field have four legs and tend to lack the ball handling skills of their national heroes.
All the players are ponies and donkeys from Clevedon Animal Farm, south of Auckland. Lynn Colecutt came up with the idea for the match when Clevedon adopted England as its second team.
“It’s supposed to be a laugh,” she said. Laugh indeed.
The animals have been training fortnightly for several months and she has now upped that to five days a week.
Her coaching tactics are simple: “You get them in the right way and tell them to kick it.”
The animals all kick the rugby ball backwards. Now she’s working on getting them to move in the same direction. And training’s also under way for a haka – although it’s not quite clear what exactly that will involve.
Although her final lineup for the four-aside teams is undecided, an undoubted star of the Animal All Blacks will be Danny Boy.
The five-year-old Welsh pony’s kicking skills have won him the number 10 black jersey – the one worn by his human counterpart Dan Carter.
Danny Boy’s younger brother Merlin, aged two, loves kicking the ball too but his position and team isn’t set yet.
“I want to see who does what together and will then work out the team,” Lynn said.
The farm’s arena has been set up with a mock rugby field complete with goalposts and tiered seating.
The players will know it’s a rugby match rather than their normal farm shows when they run on to the field through a special tunnel.
There are even cheerleaders – three miniature ponies decked out in ruffles.