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All Blacks

The All Blacks is the national rugby union representative team of New Zealand. (In Wales, the name can refer to Neath Rugby Club.)

The first usage apparently dates from the first tour of Britain by a New Zealand national rugby team, given the title The Originals, in 1905/1906. (According to Greg Ryan there was also a tour of Britain in 1888/1889 by The New Zealand Native Football Representatives).

According to Billy Wallace, one of the members of the Originals, the name originated in a London newspaper's description of the New Zealand representatives playing as if they were all backs. Other sources suggest that it is more likely that the name originated in the black uniform worn by the players, with earlier reference to "the Blacks" as a common type of nickname at the time (New Zealand Rugby Museum on this topic).

Later (in 1925 when the Invincibles toured the Home Countries) the entirely black playing uniform was emblazoned with the Silver Fern.

The All Blacks perform a Maori war dance, the haka, before each international match.

For much of the 20th century, rugby union appeared to be New Zealand's national religion, with selection to the All Blacks perhaps more highly regarded than a knighthood. The All Blacks have always been recognised as a formidable power in world rugby. and their performance on the field has often influenced the mood of the country. They have experienced many highs, such as winning the World Cup, but also a unique low when they lost two test matches on the same day, September 3, 1949. On that day they lost 6-11 to the Wallabies in Wellington, and 3-9 to the Springboks in South Africa.

Table of contents
1 The Springbok Tours
2 Recent Years
3 Other Representative Rugby Teams
4 Branding
5 External links

The Springbok Tours

Playing the Springboks of South Africa has become a traditional rugby competition. In the 1950s and 1960s, the South African apartheid policies had an impact on touring team selection, with Maoris not being selected for some South African tours. By the 1970s public protests and political pressure forced the New Zealand Rugby Union to either field a non-racial team or not tour. However the Springboks continued to be racially selected. As a result, the Norman Kirk Labour Government prevented the Springboks from touring during the mid 1970's. The Rugby Union protested that politics and sport should not be mixed up.

In 1976 the All Blacks toured South Africa. Twenty-one African nations protested this breach of the Gleneagles Agreement by boycotting the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. They viewed the All Black tour as supporting the apartheid regime. Once again the All Blacks failed to win a tour in the Republic (they would not do so until 1996, after the fall of apartheid).

The 1981 Springbok Tour

By early 1980s the pressure from other African countries as well as from internal protest groups reached a head when the Rugby Union proposed a Springbok Tour for 1981. This became a topic of political contention due to the issue of the sports boycott by the other African nations. Prime Minister Robert Muldoon was asked to cancel the tour, but he permitted the South African team to come to New Zealand in mid 1981, arguing that New Zealand was a free and democratic country. The ensuing public protests polarised the New Zealand population like no other issue has in the nation's history. While rugby fans filled the football grounds, sizeable protest crowds filled the surrounding streets. Security at public facilities was strengthened after telecommunications services were disrupted following vandalism at a TV microwave station. The Police, who had created 2 special riot squads to control protestors, also required that all spectators be in the grounds at least an hour before kickoff, after protestors surrounded grounds and attempted to invade pitches early in the tour. At Hamilton about fifty protestors invaded the pitch after pulling down a fence, causing the game to be cancelled. And in Auckland, the final game of the tour was cut short after flour bombs from a low flying light plane were dropped on the pitch. The scenes that appeared on television made it look as if the country was on the brink of civil war as running battles between protestors, the Police and enraged rugby fans were replayed on the evening news.

The long term fallout from the 1981 Springbok tour was that the All Blacks did not tour South Africa until after the apartheid regime fell, although an unofficial tour by a team of All Blacks players known as the Cavaliers did take place. Also many African Countries boycotted the 1984 Olympics. While the 1985 Springbok tour saw major rugby fields ringed in barbed wire for Springbok games, there were no protests as political circumstances had changed.

Recent Years

The All Blacks have had considerable success in international competition, with particular traditions of defeating the South African Springboks and the Australian Wallabies. Since the introduction of professional sport, however, New Zealand's small size and lack of financial sporting resource have seen strong challenges to New Zealand's former dominant position in international rugby.

Other Representative Rugby Teams


In New Zealand sporting circles, the branding of the All Blacks and the honour of "wearing the Silver Fern" has encouraged other sporting codes to adopt derivational nicknames:

Some famous All Blacks:

External links