Wellington: Two months after extending the lucrative “All Blacks” brand name from rugby union’s world champions to include New Zealand’s Sevens and Maori rugby teams, the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) announced on Thursday a Maori tour of Britain.
The Maori All Blacks will play English Premiership winners Leicester Tigers, a select Championship XV, and Canada’s international team in November’s tour, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said.
“We are very excited that our re-named Maori All Blacks will... showcase our unique brand of rugby to the northern hemisphere,” Tew said. “This announcement confirms our commitment to a tour programme for the Maori All Blacks.”
The Maori team has traditionally tended to play sides touring New Zealand.
A prerequisite for selection is that the player has Maori ancestry. The Maoris are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand.
With their distinctive black kit, silver fern logo, intimidating pre-match haka — or war dance — and a winning record against every team they have ever played a test match against, rugby union’s All Blacks are one of the most recognisable teams in world sport.
The NZRU is now looking to convert that appeal into cash and raise funds for all layers of the game in New Zealand.
“We need $100 million [Dh367 million] a year to sustain our national game, to produce and retain the best players in the world and to keep making the community game attractive to young players,” Tew said earlier this year.
“This (name) change allows us to create more reasons for international companies to associate with the All Blacks and New Zealand rugby by convincing them that the brand has real global reach.
“The All Blacks Sevens and Maori All Blacks can do that by flying the All Blacks flag virtually around the world throughout the year. They are both wonderful ambassadors for our game.”
“Imagine the All Blacks silver fern proudly on the chests of our Sevens team at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. There is no greater place to showcase to the world the All Blacks style of rugby.
“Likewise with New Zealand Maori. We see them as also carrying the All Blacks message around the world.”
Tew said that the expansion of the All Black term would in no way dilute its value.
“The definition of an All Black will not change. To be capped as an All Black you must take the field in a 15-a-side Test match. Becoming an All Black will remain the pinnacle of rugby achievement and the dream of youngsters across the country who lace up their boots each weekend.
“But by taking these steps, we can better sustain the game we love, continue to produce winning All Blacks and ensure New Zealand rugby continues to be the powerhouse of world rugby.”
The All Blacks hosted and won their second rugby World Cup last year.