All Blacks train at prestigious Harrow School

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NZPA     26 Nov 2008     Getty Images

The team's preparations for the final leg of their Grand Slam attempt against England at Twickenham on Saturday (0330 Sunday NZT) began on the immaculate grounds of one of the country's most famous public schools.

Harrow was founded in 1572 and has dominated the hill which bears its name through the ages.

Essentially a microcosm of English upper class life surrounded by working class London suburbs, Harrow's notable alumni include poet Lord Byron, England's wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill and the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru.

More recent Old Harrovians include singer James Blunt.

The All Blacks team bus wound its way along the picturesque High Street -- a collection of stores servicing the school -- before heading to the lower playing fields for a relatively light training session.

Students of the 800-strong school, resplendent in traditional grey trousers, blue jumper and trademark straw boater, watched the All Blacks go through their paces before the team headed to an indoor pool -- known colloquially as "the ducker" -- for recovery.

Despite the excellent sports facilities the students have at their disposal, Harrow struggles with rugby union.

The first team has won just four of 14 games this season, with a sports master -- or "beak" as the teachers are referred to -- acknowledging academic achievement is the prime consideration as the boys almost without exception continue their educations at either Oxford or Cambridge University.

The curriculum certainly appears to leave little opportunity for the pursuit of sporting excellence, and given the fees are stg30,000 ($NZ85,520) a year it is perhaps understandable the books take precedence.

Every first-year student has to study English, French, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, history, geography, Latin or classical civilisation, religious studies, art, music plus design and information technology. Greek, German and Spanish are offered to the 13-year-olds with "good linguistic ability".

However, there is one sport the boys are adept at.

Harrow has its own unique style of football where the purpose of the game is to score a "base". This is achieved by kicking the ball between a pair of vertical posts at either end of the ground.

They are similar to rugby posts but without the crossbar.

The All Blacks have another training session tomorrow before they head to Tower Bridge where the giant rugby ball promoting the 2011 World Cup is situated at Potters Field. There they will meet Queen Elizabeth 2 at a function that also features new Prime Minister John Key.