Peter Howe has described Hartlepool’s united rugby entry into the Bangkok International Sevens as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience”.
And the 30-year-old, whose club team now only play in a social league, says he is not daunted by the prospect of facing two All Blacks this weekend.
Hartlepool have been drawn in Group A of the international event in the Thai capital which gets under way tomorrow.
But in Group B lurks the twin threat of two former New Zealand internationals, Roy Kinikinilau and Lote Raikabula, who are part of the Pacific Barbarians squad.
“Someone posted on our group chat last week that two ex-All Blacks were going to be playing at the Bangkok International Sevens,” said Boys Brigade Old Boys star Howe.
“One of the lads joked that we’d wear crash helmets to play against them!
“A few years ago, I paid to watch Raikabula at the Hong Kong Sevens and now I could be playing against him!
“But I’m going to embrace it, if we do play them and I get to make a tackle on him, I’ll be a happy man.
“The opportunity to play for Hartlepool against a couple of All Blacks is something special.
“It’s just fantastic to be out here, full stop. Something like this doesn’t happen very often, at all in fact!
“What Alby Pattison has done is fabulous, bringing Hartlepool and Horden & Peterlee lads to play in a brilliant event. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The hard-running centre, the only BBOB player in the Hartlepol side, has not got long to wait for the action.
Hartlepool are the first team in action tomorrow against Lao Nagas before facing All for One and Olymp in their Group A games. Sunday sees the knock-out part of the competition.
“Aside from the two All Blacks, we genuinely don’t know what the standard is,” said the hard-running centre. “We know we have a good side and a bunch of great lads. We’ll be giving as good as we get.”
Hartlepool: Liam Austwicke, Liam Bailey (West), Brad Green (Horden & P’lee), Peter Howe (BBOB), Cameron Lithgo (Seaton), Jack McCalum (Horden & Peterlee), Lee Maddison (West), Alex Rochester, Adam Smith (Rovers), Alex Bayliss, Bernard Reeves (Hong Kong).