A Brief History of New Zealand Rugby

The official Rugby world rankings have been updated and as at 2nd August 2018, the top spot goes to New Zealand, with Ireland in second and England in third place. New Zealand have, for a long time, been a force to be reckoned with in the world of rugby, but what of their history? Here we take a look at the origins of the sport in New Zealand.

New Zealand Rugby was, after a couple of name changes, formed in 1892 with the purpose of overseeing the game at a national level. It is now over 126 years old. In 1892, the organisation was known as the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, but this was shortened in 2006 and shortened again in 2013 to just NZR.


The first match of the game to be held in the country took place in 1870 and its popularity soon took off. Five years later, the first interprovincial match happened between the clubs of Dunedin and Auckland. Some provincial unions formed in 1879 in Canterbury and Wellington, but there was still no national body and many unions still affiliated themselves to the RFU of England. If you want to aspire to be the best, then get the best Rugby Drill Videos for your training.

When the NZRFU was formed, its original members included the unions of Auckland, Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, South Canterbury, Wanganui, Marlborough, Wellington, Wairarapa and Taranaki. Three provinces resisted the formation of such an overseeing body and these were Otago, Southland and Canterbury.

One of the men who made it all happen was Ernest Hoben. He travelled the country, putting the idea of a central body to all the different unions, explaining how it would work and the benefits of such a move.

At the first meeting in 1893, the black jersey that is now so iconic was first adopted. Two years later, the remaining resistant provinces joined the organisation and finally the NZRU was seen as a complete collection of all the rugby players in the country.

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Like almost every other nation, New Zealand’s rugby was greatly affected by the outbreak of World War I. Players who survived were often badly injured and many never returned from the horrors of warfare. Schools became the place where rugby was kept alive and from 1917 onwards, fixtures contained much younger players.

World Rugby, previously the International Rugby Football Board, finally admitted New Zealand to its ranks in 1948 after it first applied in 1908. At the same time, South Africa were admitted and Australia, who had just formed their union. Each of the three were admitted with one seat on the board.

It wasn’t until 1995 that international rugby went professional in New Zealand, which allowed NZR to negotiate and contract professional players. It was at this time that NZR joined forces with Australia and South Africa in the formation of SANZAR. This organisation sold television rights to big southern hemisphere games. It later grew to include Argentina and changed its name to SANZAAR.


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