New Zealand Rugby

Last updated

New Zealand Rugby
New Zealand Rugby Union logo.svg
Sport Rugby union
Founded1892 (1892)
World Rugby affiliation1949
Oceania affiliation2000
President Bill Osborne
Mark Robinson
Men's coach Ian Foster
Women's coach Glenn Moore
Sevens coachMen's: Clark Laidlaw
Women's: Allan Bunting / Cory Sweeney

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) 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 Football Board, now known as World Rugby, 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 was adopted in 2013. [1] Officially, it is an incorporated society with the name New Zealand Rugby Union Incorporated. [2] [3]


The organisation's main objectives, as displayed in the NZR Constitution, [4] are to promote and develop rugby throughout New Zealand; arrange and participate in matches and tours in New Zealand and overseas; represent New Zealand in World Rugby; form and manage New Zealand representative teams; and encourage participation in the sport. NZR Headquarters are located in Wellington, New Zealand, with an office in Auckland.


New Zealand Rugby has a staff of approximately 90 people, mostly based in Wellington and Auckland but also working in locations all around New Zealand.

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

In 1996, the NZRU's ruling council was replaced by an expanded board to include independent members and an elected Maori representative. In 2015, the geographical zones were abolished so that vacant elective seats on the board could be contested by nominees from any provincial union in New Zealand without restriction on place of residence. [5]

Bill Osborne
Max Spence
Vice President
Brent Impey
Richard Dellabarca
Board Member
Andrew Golightly
Board Member*
Peter Kean
Board Member
Stewart Mitchell
Board Member*
Shaun Nixon
Board Member*
Farah Palmer
Maori Representative*
Michael Jones
Board Member*
* Elected members
Mark Robinson
Chief Executive Officer
Nicki Nicol
Chief Operating Officer
Nigel Cass
Chief Strategy and Operations
Richard Thomas
Chief Commercial Officer
Darren Shand
All Blacks Manager

Updated: 5 February 2020
Sources:NZRU [5] [6] [7]

Patron and officers

New Zealand Rugby's Patron fills an honorary role as the figurehead for the organisation. The position of Patron is currently vacant following the death of Sir Brian Lochore in August 2019.

The President and Vice President are the Union's two officers who represent New Zealand Rugby at functions and events. Unlike the Patron, the President and Vice President may attend board meetings of New Zealand Rugby, although they are not entitled to vote on board matters. The President and Vice President are elected for two years each. The current President is Bill Osborne and the current Vice President is Max Spence. [6]


The Board is charged with setting strategy, direction and policy for the New Zealand Rugby Union, and is ultimately responsible for the decisions and actions of NZRU 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.

As of September 2018, the Board has nine members: six elected members (including one Maori representative) and three independent members. Any provincial union in New Zealand may nominate candidates for vacant elective positions. [5] Nominations are passed to an Appointments and Remuneration Committee (ARC) which recommends two candidates per vacancy, to be voted on by delegates at the Annual General Meeting. The Maori representative is automatically appointed as New Zealand Rugby's representative on and Chairman of the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board. [5]

The 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 from the Board of New Zealand Rugby. [5]

Executive management team and staff

New Zealand Rugby's management and staff reports to an executive team headed by the Chief Executive Officer. This team includes various managers for all aspects of New Zealand Rugby ranging from community and provincial rugby to the All Blacks teams. [7] The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), working with the Board, is responsible for the establishment of the vision and strategy for the organisation, and acts as the key link between the Board and the staff. The CEO is ultimately responsible for the administrative and operational aspects of New Zealand Rugby. The current CEO is Mark Robinson, who took up the post in January 2020, succeeding Steve Tew.


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" [1] and the word "Union" had some negative connotations. [8]

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 [9] 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 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 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 changes in sponsorship in 2010 and 2016, the Air New Zealand Cup first became the ITM Cup and is now the Mitre 10 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, the only team to beat them was Wales. 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 [10]

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

New Zealand also won the Rugby World Cup Finals— in 2011, after an 8–7 victory over France in front of a home crowd, and in 34–17 victory over Australia at Twickenham in 2015. The latter win made the All Blacks the first side ever to successfully defend a Rugby World Cup title.

Professional era

In 1995, following the Rugby World Cup tournament in South Africa, international rugby turned professional with the IRB's repeal of all amateurism regulations. For the first time, the NZRU negotiated with and contracted New Zealand rugby players.

The NZRU also joined with the national unions of Australia and South Africa to form SANZAR, which sold the television rights for major southern hemisphere rugby competitions and helped to build the commercial foundation on which professional rugby is based. SANZAR, renamed SANZAAR with the 2016 entry of Argentina as a full member of the body, remains an important rugby organisation and organises The Rugby Championship (originally the Tri Nations) and the Super Rugby competition.

National teams

The NZRU has several teams under its control.




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, Brendon Pickerill, Ben O'Keeffe, Paul Williams, Nick Briant and Mike Fraser. The professionals are appointed to refereeing Super Rugby matches by SANZAAR with some refereeing test rugby.

Provincial unions

The NZRU comprises 17 North Island provincial unions and 9 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. 1 2 McKendry, Patrick (26 March 2013). "NZ rugby targets Auckland's Asian population". The New Zealand Herald. APNZ. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  2. "NEW ZEALAND RUGBY UNION INCORPORATED (215355) (NZBN: 9429042872061) [Incorporated Society] Registered" . Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  3. "New Zealand Rugby Union Incorporated: Constitution" (PDF). Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  4. NZRU Constitution
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "Our Board". New Zealand Rugby. 1 May 2016. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  6. 1 2 "Officers and Patrons". New Zealand Rugby. 1 May 2016. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  7. 1 2 "Management". New Zealand Rugby. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  8. "Work book". Work Communications. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  9. New Zealand Rugby Map as of 2005
  10. Gregor Paul (30 November 2008). "All Blacks conquer England to complete Grand Slam". The New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 10 September 2011.

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Structure of rugby union in New Zealand

Rugby union in New Zealand is structured into four tiers. The top tier is composed of the national representative teams, with the men's team – known as the All Blacks – at the top, followed by other representative sides such as the Junior All Blacks and Māori All Blacks. These national sides are administered by the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU). Below this level is Super Rugby, where there are five New Zealand sides, each representing a different region of the country. Below this level is provincial rugby, the third tier – each province has a representative side that plays in either the semi-professional Mitre 10 Cup, or amateur Heartland Championship. These provincial sides are selected of Super Rugby players, and club players from within the province. Club rugby is the fourth and lowest tier, and consists of clubs competing in local leagues organised by a provincial union.

History of rugby union in New Zealand

Rugby union has a long history in New Zealand. Today, New Zealand holds tier one status with World Rugby.