The All Blacks are New Zealand’s number one national rugby side and have rated amongst 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 been immortalised as All Black No 1.
The 1888–89 Natives team that played 107 matches in a marathon tour of New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom was not a genuine national selection. However, it did a great deal to raise the profile of New Zealand rugby, particularly in Britain, and set the scene for the famous All Blacks tours to come.
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.
In 1896, New Zealand beat Queensland at Wellington to record its first home win against visiting opposition.
In 1903, New Zealand played in its first Test match, against Australia in Sydney. New Zealand scored three tries to one in a 22–3 win.
In 1904, New Zealand played in its first Test match on New Zealand soil, beating a Great Britain side 9–3 in Wellington.
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.
The 1905 All Blacks’ loss to Wales was the team’s first in a Test match. The All Blacks didn’t lose a Test match at home until 1913, when they were beaten 16–5 by Australia in Christchurch.
In 1921, the All Blacks played South Africa for the first time, drawing a three-Test series in New Zealand.
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. After splitting the first two Tests of the 1956 series, the All Blacks won the third and fourth to clinch a famous, long-awaited victory.
In 1959, the All Blacks played in their 100th Test match, a loss in Auckland to the touring British Isles.
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, 2008 and 2010.
In 1981, the Springboks toured New Zealand amongst protests and torrid political debate concerning the ethics of hosting a team from apartheid-ruled South Africa. The All Blacks won two of the three Tests, but the 1981 Springbok tour is remembered as a period of social strife and as a stark illustration of the unique and intractable relationship between rugby and society in New Zealand.
In 1987, the All Blacks won the inaugural Rugby World Cup, hosted by New Zealand and Australia.
In 1996, the All Blacks achieved their first Test series win over the Springboks in South Africa, four years after South Africa’s return from sporting exile.
In 2006, the All Blacks became just the second team, after France, to score 10,000 Test points.
There are three invitational sides to have played Test match rugby against the All Blacks. The British and Irish Lions team is a composite team selected once every four years from the playing ranks of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Lions last visited New Zealand in 2005, playing seven matches against provincial teams, an international against New Zealand Maori and a three-Test series against the All Blacks, which the home team won 3–0. A Home Unions selection first toured New Zealand in 1888, has made 12 visits in total, and is not scheduled to return to New Zealand until 2017. Although it is commonly how the team is known, the 2005 side was the first to be officially named “the Lions” – earlier sides travelled as Great Britain, the Anglo-Welsh and the British Isles.
In 1992, a World XV, featuring players from eight other Test rugby nations, was selected as part of the NZRU’s centenary celebrations. The All Blacks won two of the three Tests.
The Pacific Islanders team is a composite team selected every second year to include players from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. The All Blacks first played the Pacific Islanders in 2004.
Click here to visit the official All Blacks site - allblacks.com.