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Rugby: New Zealand’s Obsession - A Brief history

Our national religion obsession rugby team the ‘All Blacks’ command the countries undivided attention, so much so, that New Zealand is often referred to as the ‘Stadium of Four Million’ Essential reading for those planning a trip to New Zealand, the following ‘Rugby Trivia’ allows one to easily engage into a conversation with the natives. 

Considered Fine Art in New Zealand: Blenheim artist Terry Stewart displays the rugby ball sculpture he created from spider web.

The History of Rugby: Historians believe rugby developed from a game ‘Cornish hurling’ that was played in Cornwall, England, during the 17th and 18th centuries. The idea was the first team to get the ball to their goal was the winner - very few rules and no referees. In 1845, three lads at Rugby School in England published the rules of this game that had been played at their school for at least a century. They called it ‘rugby football’ and all modern forms of rugby developed from this game include rugby union and league, touch, sevens, as well as American and Canadian football.  

The History of New Zealand Rugby Around 1200AD, New Zealand was discovered and settled by Polynesians, the ancient ancestors of All Black (Rugby) legends Jonah Lomu and Tana Umaga.

New Zealand was ‘discovered again’ by a Dutch chap called Abel Tasman in 1642, but Mr Tasman, knowing nothing of rugby fortunately made no attempt to settle. In 1769, New Zealand was ‘discovered’ yet again by Captain James Cook – an Englishman. European colonisation soon followed and it was Englishman Charles Monro who introduced the oval ball to New Zealand with the nation’s first official Rugby match was played in Nelson the 14th of May 1870, between Nelson College and Nelson Football Club. The sport then caught on quickly and the first inter-provincial match was played just five years later between Auckland and Dunedin. In 1883, the great rugby rivalry between the Aussies (Australians) and Kiwi’s (New Zealanders) began when a team from New South Wales toured New Zealand. The result is unknown but what we do know is that a New Zealand team made a return tour to Australia in 1884 and won all their games. The first British team to visit arrived in 1888 and it wasn’t until 1921 that the South African made it over.  

Politics and Rugby: Politics and sports collided in 1981 when the South African Springbok team toured New Zealand, sparking massive never seen before protests and a huge debate about whether the nation should be hosting a team from apartheid-ruled South Africa. The rugby games are not as well remembered as much as the political significance of the era, and the integral role that Rugby has played in the formation of New Zealand’s cultural fabric.  

Rugby World Cup: The inaugural Rugby World Cup was held in 1987 in both New Zealand and Australia, and was triumphantly won by the All Blacks. Although New Zealand’s national Rugby team still wears the black jersey, the game has continued to evolve over the years. After the Rugby World Cup tournament in South Africa, in 1995, international Rugby became a professional sport.  The Mighty Haka: One particularly intense source of pride is the haka, a traditional Māori warrior challenge the All Blacks perform before every match.  The New Zealand men's national rugby union team, known as the All Blacks, have played 50 matches in the eight Rugby World Cup tournaments from 1987 to 2015. They won the 1987, 2011 and 2015 tournaments. They are the only team never to have lost a pool match and to have always qualified in first place from every group.

New Zealand
Brent Narbey
Submitted by
Brent Narbey
: 1 Mar 2011 (Last updated: 22 Jul 2017)

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