New Zealand Rugby History

June 2, 2016
Unique Taste Zoom James

New Zealand Rugby (formally the New Zealand Rugby Union and formerly New Zealand Rugby Football Union) was formed in 1892 to administer the game of rugby union at the national level.

At that time, the national union was known as the New Zealand Rugby Football Union or NZRFU. Our name was officially shortened in 2006 with the removal of the world “Football” and in 2013 we became known as New Zealand Rugby.

After the first rugby match in 1870 the game spread quickly and in September 1875 the first interprovincial match took place in Dunedin, between Auckland Clubs and Dunedin Clubs. In 1879, the first Provincial Unions were formed in Canterbury and Wellington. There was no national body and Unions were affilliated to the RFU in England.

Formation of New Zealand Rugby

On Saturday 16 April 1892, at a meeting held in Wellington, the NZRFU was formed. Inaugural members were the Provincial Unions of Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu, Marlborough, Nelson, South Canterbury, Taranaki, Wairarapa, Wanganui and Wellington. At the time, three major South Island Provincial Unions – Canterbury, Otago and Southland – resisted the central authority of the NZRU.

New Zealand Rugby's strongest advocate and first secretary, Ernest Hoben, was a driving force behind the formation of the national union. Hoben had spent 1891 travelling around New Zealand putting his idea of a national union to the local Unions, and according to historian A.C.Swan "explaining the proposed working of such a Union and the benefits to be obtained by having the headquarters of the game in New Zealand." The minutes of an 1891 conference show that Hoben's "attention had been first drawn to the need for a central Union by the haphazard manner in which inter-provincial fixtures were arranged, often disorganising local fixtures at the last moment and resulting in loss to the Unions; by the necessuty for a powerful body to make punishment for misconduct general; and to assume sole control of all matters pertaining to foreign teams coming to the Colony, or New Zealand teams leaving it."

In 1893, at its first AGM, we formally adopted the black jersey as the national playing strip and selected the first officially-sanctioned national team, for a tour of Australia (although they were not selected by the national body, the earlier New Zealand team selected to tour New South Wales in 1884 is recognised as a New Zealand team and its players are recognised as All Blacks.)

By 1895, with the additions of the Bush, Canterbury, Horowhenua, Otago, Poverty Bay, Southland and West Coast unions, the NZRU was considered to be a complete and united collection of all New Zealand rugby players. However, the New Zealand rugby map would be repeatedly redrawn in the following decades (see Our Members).

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