16 / Rugby

New Zealand’s obsession with the oval ball kicked off in the 1870s, and within a decade the nation had played its first international rugby, against a team from New South Wales. Provincial rugby unions were formed from the late 1870s, and the New Zealand Rugby Union was established in 1892. Provinces began competing for the Ranfurly Shield in 1904, and in 1905–1906 the first national team to be known as the All Blacks toured Britain, France and North America. There’s no contesting that rugby is the ‘national game’, with its profile raised every four years by the Rugby World Cup competition. However, it may not have the dominance it once enjoyed, as reflected in the mid-1960s song by Rod Derrett, ‘Rugby, Racing and Beer.’ No matter, the winning or losing of a test match continues to determine the psychological state of the nation.

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