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New Zealand Rugby Union

New Zealand Rugby Union
Association crest
Sport Rugby union
Founded 1892
WR affiliation 1949
President Ian MacRae
Men's coach Steve Hansen
Women's coach Brian Evans

The New Zealand Rugby Union Incorporated[1] (NZRU) is the governing body of rugby union in New Zealand. It was founded in 1892 as the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU), 12 years after the first provincial unions in New Zealand. In 1949 it became an affiliate to the International Rugby Board, the governing body of rugby union for the world. It dropped the word "Football" from its name in 2006. The brand name New Zealand Rugby (NZR) was adopted in 2013.[2]

The organisation's main objectives, as displayed in the NZRU Constitution,[3] are to promote and develop rugby throughout New Zealand; arrange and participate in international, trial and other rugby matches and tours in New Zealand and overseas; represent New Zealand on the International Rugby Board; form and manage New Zealand representative teams; and encourage participation in, and support for, rugby players and supporters at all levels of the game. NZR Headquarters are located in Wellington, New Zealand, with an office in Auckland.

New Zealand Rugby’s purpose is to lead, grow, support and promote New Zealand’s game. It strives for rugby teams in black that are unrivalled, a high performance system that produces the world’s best talent, competitions that fans love, and a community game that is strong and cherished. It is committed to New Zealand rugby being financially secure, attracting top partners and contributing actively to the global game.

There are currently 11 NZRU Board members. The President, Ian MacRae, was elected in 2013. The President may attend Board meetings but is not a Board member and cannot vote on Board matters. Steve Tew is the current chief executive and Sir Brian Lochore is the current Patron.

Charged with fostering, developing, administering, promoting and representing the game of rugby in New Zealand, NZR’s responsibilities include supporting community and provincial rugby, delivering national competitions including the ITM Cup, Pink Batts Heartland Championship and Women’s Provincial Championship. It also delivers Investec Super Rugby in New Zealand and manages Test matches in New Zealand, including the Investec Rugby Championship. Additionally, it manages and resourcing its national teams: the All Blacks, Black Ferns, Maori All Blacks, All Blacks Sevens, New Zealand Women’s Sevens, New Zealand Under 20, the Heartland XV and the Junior All Blacks.


  • Structure 1
    • Patrons and officers 1.1
    • Board 1.2
      • Zonal representatives 1.2.1
      • Maori representatives 1.2.2
      • Independent board members 1.2.3
    • Management and staff 1.3
  • History 2
    • Formation and early years 2.1
    • Provincial rugby 2.2
    • All Blacks 2.3
    • Professional era 2.4
  • National teams 3
    • Men 3.1
    • Women 3.2
    • Referees 3.3
  • Provincial unions 4
    • North Island 4.1
    • South Island 4.2
  • See also 5
  • Notes and references 6
  • External links 7


The NZRU was initially governed by a committee of delegates from the provincial unions until replaced in 1894 by a seven-member Wellington-based management committee. This was expanded 43 years later to create two entities, the ruling NZRU Council and an executive committee. In 1986, the NZRU introduced the three zones and the executive committee was replaced by an administration committee. Ten years later the council was replaced by the current NZRU Board which included independent board members. Administrative responsibilities were initially held by honorary secretaries, and then secretaries, from 1907. Since 1990, the NZRU has been managed by a CEO.

Patrons and officers

The NZR Patron fills an honorary role as the figurehead for the organization. The current Patron is former All Blacks captain Sir Brian Lochore, who has held the title since 2013, taking over from Sir Wilson Whineray.

The President and Vice President of NZR are the Union's two officers who represent NZR and New Zealand Rugby at rugby and non-rugby functions and events. Unlike the NZR Patron, the President and Vice President are entitled to attend NZR Board Meetings, but are not entitled to vote on Board matters. The President and Vice President are elected for two years each. The current President is David Rhodes and the current Vice President is Maurice Trapp.


Patron Sir Brian Lochore
NZRU Board Members
President David Rhodes
Vice President[4] Maurice Trapp
Chairman Brent Impey
Central Representative Mark Robinson
Maori Representative Wayne Peters Northern Representatives Glenn Wahlstrom Andrew Golightly
Southern Representatives Graham Cooney
Independent Members Richard Dellabarca Brent Impey

The NZRU Board is charged with setting strategy, direction and policy for the NZRU, and is ultimately responsible for the decisions and actions of NZR management and staff. Many of the decisions concerning New Zealand’s national teams, domestic competitions, financial management and rugby traditions are made by the Board.

The Board has nine members: six zonal representatives, one Maori representative and two independent members.

Zonal representatives

New Zealand’s 26 provincial unions are divided into three zones – North, Central and South – and two representatives from each zone are elected to the Board. These zonal representatives are nominated by a provincial union within their zone and are elected by a vote of all 26 unions at the annual general meeting. From the six zonal representatives, a chairman is elected; the position is currently held by Mike Eagle, who replaced Jock Hobbs in December 2010 after Hobbs was forced to resign for health reasons.[5]

Maori representatives

The Maori representative may be nominated by any provincial union and is elected by a vote of all the unions at the annual general meeting. The Maori representative is automatically appointed as NZR representative on and Chairman of the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board.

Independent board members

The two independent board members must be independent of any provincial union and are not nominated for the role. Instead, independent members must apply for the position and are selected on the basis of their professional qualifications and experience by a committee of the NZR Board.

Management and staff

NZR Management and Staff is headed by a senior management team that includes the Chief Executive Officer, General Manager Professional Rugby, General Manager Community and Provincial Union Rugby, General Manager Public Affairs, General Manager Strategic Relationships and Planning, Chief Financial Officer and All Blacks Manager. The CEO is responsible with the Board for the establishment of the vision and strategy for the organization, acts as the key link between the Board and the staff, and is ultimately responsible for the administrative and operational aspects of NZR, the current CEO is Steve Tew, who was elected in 2008.


The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) 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. The name was officially shortened in 2006 with the removal of the word "Football". The brand name New Zealand Rugby was adopted in 2013 for "everyday" use because it was seen as less "stuffy"[2] and the word "Union" had some negative connotations.[6]

The first rugby match to be played in New Zealand took place in Nelson in May 1870, between Nelson College and Nelson Football Club. 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.

Formation and early years

Ernest Hoben
The NZRU’s strongest advocate and first secretary, Ernest Hoben, was a driving force behind the formation of the national union. In recognition of Hoben’s contribution, the "Ernest Hoben Room" at the NZRU’s offices in Wellington now displays all 26 provincial jerseys alongside photos of past All Blacks teams and the names of every All Black in New Zealand rugby history.

On Saturday 16 April 1892, in a meeting held in Wellington, the New Zealand Rugby Union was formed. Inaugural members were the provincial unions of Auckland, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, Marlborough, Nelson, South Canterbury, Taranaki, Waiararapa, Wanganui and Wellington. At the time, three major South Island provincial unions – Canterbury, Otago and Southland – resisted the central authority of the NZRU.

In 1893, the NZRU formally adopted the black jersey as the national playing strip and selected the first NZRU-sanctioned national team, for a tour of Australia. However, the earlier New Zealand team selected to tour New South Wales in 1884 is recognised as a New Zealand team and its players 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[7] would be repeatedly redrawn in the following decades.

At the Annual Meeting in 1921, the NZRU elected its first Life Member, George Dixon, manager of the 1905 “Originals” All Blacks and the NZRU’s first Chairman, appointed in 1904. In another innovation, provincial delegates met prior to the Annual Meeting to arrange representative fixtures for the season ahead, introducing a new level of national coordination.

Provincial rugby

In 1976, the National Provincial Championship was formed to help organise matches between provincial unions, it had two divisions in its first year of play but the format was repeatedly reorganized throughout its 30-year history, notably in 1992 the Rugby Union Bonus Points System was brought in to determine the top placed team. Auckland have been the most successful team in the NPC's history with 16 championships including the last in 2005. At the conclusion of the NPC there were three divisions and 27 Rugby Unions under the NZRU's jurisdiction, it was replaced by the Air New Zealand Cup and Heartland Championship in 2006 with 14 teams in the top competition, including the new Tasman Makos, who formed with the amalgamation of the Marlborough and Nelson Bays Rugby Unions, and 12 teams in the amateur Heartland Championship. After a 2010 change in sponsorship, the Air New Zealand Cup became the ITM Cup.

All Blacks

The All Blacks are New Zealand’s number one national rugby side and have rated among the best in the world for well over 100 years. Their name and distinctive all black playing strip have become well known to rugby and non-rugby fans worldwide.

The first New Zealand team was selected in 1884, for a tour to New South Wales. The team played its first match at home, against a Wellington XV, before recording eight wins in eight matches in Australia. Otago prop James Allan, who played eight matches for the 1884 team, has the title of All Black No 1.

In 1893, the first official NZRU-sanctioned New Zealand team was selected, for an 11-match tour to Australia. The team lost just once, to New South Wales in Sydney.

In 1894, an official New Zealand team hosted visiting opposition on home soil for the first time, in a match against New South Wales at Christchurch won 8–6 by the visitors, two years later, New Zealand beat Queensland at Wellington to record its first home win against visiting opposition.

New Zealand’s 1905–06 tour to the United Kingdom, France and North America might be considered the most important in New Zealand rugby history. The team played 35 matches in total, losing just once. In the United Kingdom especially, the team’s largely confident, attractive and comfortable wins made a strong statement about the quality of rugby in the colonies and New Zealand in particular. Moreover, the 1905–06 tour gave rise to the famous “All Blacks” moniker, as the fame surrounding the black-clad team spread. Nowadays, this team is known as “the Originals” – they were the first team to demonstrate the power and skill of New Zealand rugby, the first to make rugby a part of New Zealand’s cultural identity, and the first to be known as All Blacks.

In 1924–25, the All Blacks embarked on a 32-match tour to the United Kingdom, France and Canada. Going one better than the 1905–06 Originals, this team won all 32 matches, including Test wins over Ireland, Wales, England and France, and earned the nickname “the Invincibles”.

In 1956, the All Blacks won a Test series against South Africa for the first time. The Springboks were the All Blacks’ greatest traditional rivals and had delivered some of the All Blacks’ worst defeats.

In 1978, the All Blacks achieved a Grand Slam for the first time. For southern hemisphere sides like New Zealand, a Grand Slam includes victories over the four Home Unions – England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – in the course of a single tour. The team achieved a second Grand Slam in 2005 and a third in 2008[8]

In 1987, the All Blacks won the inaugural Rugby World Cup against France, hosted by New Zealand and Australia.

New Zealand are the current holders of the Webb Ellis Trophy after beating France again, 8 points to 7 in the Rugby World Cup final in front of a home crowd.

The title was successfully defended for the first time in Rugby World Cup history after winning against Australia, 34 points to 17 in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham.

Professional era

In 1995, following the Super Rugby and Tri Nations competitions.

National teams

The NZRU has several teams under its control.


  • All Blacks – the national men's rugby union team of New Zealand
  • Junior All Blacks – the second national team behind the All Blacks and not an age graded side.
  • Sevens – the national rugby sevens team of New Zealand. Established in 1983, when the first full international side was sent to the famous Hong Kong Sevens tournament.
  • Māori All Blacks – the national men's Māori team of New Zealand. Members of this team must have at least 1/16 Māori ancestry (one great-great-grandparent).
  • Under 20s – an age graded side created after the IRB folded its former under-19 and under-21 World Championships into an under-20 competition known as the IRB Junior World Championship. Currently the country's top age-grade side, and also sometimes referred to as the "Baby Blacks."
  • Under 21s – an age graded side that has developed some of today's current All Blacks, also sometimes referred to as the "Baby Blacks."
  • ITM Cup, and the nominally amateur Heartland Championship, the team now consists solely of players from the Heartland Championship.
  • NZ Schools – a development team of school players who move up to the Under 20s and ultimately the All Blacks.


  • Black Ferns – the national women's rugby union team of New Zealand.


The New Zealand Rugby Union have a number of contracted referees who officiated in levels from Heartland matches to ITM Cup and Super Rugby. The system in which referees are selected, appointed to matches and progress through to the next stage is very structured with a number of referee coaches, viewers and managers assisting them with their performances. However, only 5 referees are on professional contracts, Glen Jackson, Chris Pollock, Garrett Williamson, Nick Briant and Mike Fraser. The professionals are usually appointed to refereeing Super Rugby matches by SANZAR

Provincial unions

The NZRU comprises seventeen North Island provincial unions and nine South Island provincial unions.

North Island

The North Island provincial unions are:

South Island

The South Island provincial unions are:

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "About us". New Zealand Rugby Union. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b McKendry, Patrick (26 March 2013). "NZ rugby targets Auckland's Asian population". The New Zealand Herald. APNZ. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  3. ^ NZRU Constitution
  4. ^ The Vice President may attend Board meetings but is not a Board member and cannot vote on Board matters.
  5. ^ "Jock Hobbs resigns" (Press release). New Zealand Rugby Union. 2010-12-10. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  6. ^ "Work book". Work Communications. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  7. ^ New Zealand Rugby Map as of 2005
  8. ^ Gregor Paul (30 November 2008). "All Blacks conquer England to complete Grand Slam".  

External links

  • Official Organizational Website of the NZRU

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