Rugby Union in New Zealand – Part 1

Rugby Union in many people’s eyes around the world is symbolic of New Zealand and its culture and this goes hand in hand. As soon as people mention the country, an image of the All Blacks is never far away and this has been welcomed by New Zealand and its public. The first New Zealand side to tour the British Isles was known as the “Originals”. During that tour the Express and Echo newspaper in Devon claimed the New Zealand side played like the all Blacks, as they demolished the home county 55–4.

It took a little time for the New Zealanders to adopt their new name, but when the side returned in March 1906 they were greeted with the headline “Return of the All Blacks” in the Auckland Herald newspaper. Even before 1905, the New Zealand side had been successful overseas and had won their first international in 1903 at the Sydney Cricket Ground against Australia by 22–3. It was so important for a new nation searching for its own identity that they could adopt a sport where they were experiencing immediate international successes.

Since the start of playing tests, New Zealand has won 77% of the 570 games they have played, they have won the last two world cups and are currently ranked number 1 side in the world. As well as the All Blacks, New Zealand has other representative sides. There are the Maori All Blacks and the Junior All Blacks. The Junior All Blacks are not graded on age but are seen as the second All Blacks side. The Maori All Blacks contain players of Maori descent. In 2015, 150,727 people played ruby of which 19,792 were females, and these figures are remarkably high considering the size of the population.

Club Rugby

Canterbury Crusaders – the most successful side in Super Rugby

The top club rugby sides in New Zealand play in the Super Rugby against teams from Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan. There are five New Zealand sides in the competition, and since the first tournament in 1996, the New Zealand sides have 15 wins from the 22 competitions, with no side topping the Crusaders eight titles. This league is a stepping stone to international rugby and with such strong franchises it is a hardly a surprise that the All Blacks are so strong. The Auckland Blues, Waikato Chiefs, Canterbury Crusaders, Wellington Hurricanes, and Otago Highlanders have all experienced being the champions.

The highest domestic league within New Zealand is the ITM Cup Premier Division with the Championship for the 2nd tier teams. There is also the Heartland Championship and below this many regional leagues.

Schools rugby

Auckland Grammar. Just another school game

One of biggest games of 1st XV school rugby in New Zealand is most probably the 1st XV fixture between Auckland Grammar and Kings College. The game is televised live on the Sky TV and the match is played in front of a huge crowd who perform their own Haka before the game. The oldest schools’ tournament in New Zealand is the Quadrangle Cup which is competed for by the Nelson, Wellington, Christ’s and Wanganui colleges.

However, this is just a small sample of the large numbers of secondary schools that have top class teams and rugby programmes. The vast majority of pupils in each year group will play for one of the school’s sides. The aim for each player is to gain selection to the New Zealand Schools side, and this is the first rung on the ladder as each player aims to reach their final goal and that is to become an All Black.

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