24 Oct 2008

All Blacks, England to play in honour of Hillary

6:15 am on 24 October 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary is to be remembered with an annual rugby match between the All Blacks and England for the Hillary Shield.

Sir Edmund gained worldwide fame as the first man, along with climbing companion Tenzing Norgay, to scale the world's highest peak, Mt Everest, on 29 May, 1953.

He died of a heart attack at Auckland City Hospital in January this year, aged 88. He had been ill for some time.

The shield will be unveiled in England ahead of the inaugural match for the new trophy on 29 November.

Prime Minister Helen Clark announced the fixture in Auckland on Thursday alongside Lady June Hillary and Rugby Union representatives.

Miss Clark says they took the time find a fitting tribute to Sir Edmund, the first man to conquer Mount Everest.

"And I think it's particularly appropriate that it's a shield between New Zealand and England because, of course, Ed came to prominence through being on a British expedition to Everest. He got his chance to get to the top though that expedition."

Lady Hillary says her husband would have been thrilled to be remembered in such a way, as he was a big rugby fan.

"He would be really chuffed to see that - he really loved his rugby and the shield is going to be a great honour. I'm really thrilled about it myself."

The ascent of Everest was just the beginning of a life of adventure and service for Sir Edmund. But his greatest project was his Himalayan Trust, set up in the 1960s.

Sir Edmund felt a deep sense of obligation to the Sherpa people of Nepal, and from 1966 made numerous visits to the Himalayas to build and advise on schools, hospitals, air strips and bridges.

The Government announced on Thursday a $60,000 boost in funding for the Himalayan Trust, taking the annual grant to $350,000.