The rewards are not financial, in fact quite the opposite, but being in these countries and sampling the culture while working with rugby people is certainly a privilege. Wherever you go in the world rugby people have a special bond.

Lao rugby is at the opposite end of the scale to the mighty All Blacks. There is no World Rugby funding because they do not have full membership of the international governing body with the country not having sufficient club sides.

There is a lot of work going on by a small band of workers under the guiding eye of former USA player Megan Knight who came to Laos seven years ago and has stayed on. They are building from the youth carrying out programmes which involve tag rugby and life skills with funding from governments.

The next trick will be to keep these players moving on in to the tackle form of the game in their late teenage years and adulthood.

This is a poor country. There is only one grass field and that is shared with other codes and there are two small grass areas in the city, one of which is owned by the United States Embassy and used whenever possible for training. It is possibly about half field size but like a gem in the stones.

Alternatively, if this is not available, there is a carpark with very poor lighting.

There are sufficient balls and cones, if they turn up, and there are four hit shields. That's not a lot but it is what it is and is workable.

So with this in mind, and aware of the many pitfalls, it was off to Laos.

The first day featured the finals of the leagues. Four men teams, the total for the country, were in round three, the final round, with the Vientiane Buffalos winning for the first time in 10 years.

The under 17 men's team had a crack at 15 aside for the first time after playing all their rugby with just 10. That caused a bit of confusion at scrum time.

There was some really good stuff, but mostly it was about a lot of walking and long pauses after the whistle.

Mind you, playing in 30 degrees probably slowed a few down. But, for such a small number of players, the standard was pretty good.

The next day featured the first training with the national squad when the man on the gate would not let us on the grass but directed us to a soil area nearby. The full squad turned up, but not the balls, which arrived 40 minutes later.

It is amazing what you can come up with under pressure. It also gave me an opportunity to meet two props whose wives had just given birth to baby boys. One child was called Rugby and the other was named Ball.

Don't tell me they don't love the game.

The next few weeks will no doubt produce some interesting times.

By Ian Snook - Stuff.co.nz - October 11 2017