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‘Defence Blacks’ New Name for NZDF Rugby Team

Media Release

24 August 2015

‘Defence Blacks’ New Name for NZDF Rugby Team

The Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General (LTGEN) Tim Keating, and New Zealand Rugby announced today that the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) rugby team will now be known as the “Defence Blacks”.

The new name comes before a commemorative tour in Europe by the Defence Blacks.

On 29 September the team plays a French selection in Paris commemorating a match in 1917 where the NZ Division played a French military side in front of a crowd said to number 60,000 people.

On 3 October the team will play a one-off match in the Dave Gallaher Memorial Tournament against the Belgium national team. From there the team goes to the United Kingdom for the International Defence Force Rugby World Cup (IDRC)

The Defence Blacks are in pool 1 with Japan, Fiji, and the Royal Navy. Their first game is against the Japanese Self Defense Force on 8 October.

LTGEN Keating said the new name for the team acknowledges the long-standing rugby tradition of the Defence Force, with the first recorded match involving New Zealand troops in December 1914.

“After the end of the First World War, New Zealand soldiers won what is now recognised as one of the first international rugby tournaments, fielding 13 former or future All Blacks.

“It is fitting that the NZDF rugby team returns to Great Britain as part of the New Zealand Rugby family as the Defence Blacks,” LTGEN Keating said.

While in Europe the team will also take part in a number of services to acknowledge the sacrifice of 700 New Zealand soldiers who died in the 1917 Battle of Messines.

ENDS

Background

The naming of the New Zealand Defence Force rugby team as the Defence Blacks is the latest step in a long and proud tradition of the Armed Services’ association with rugby.

It is estimated that 20,000-30,000 rugby players and officials served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the First World War. Of the 50 All Blacks who went to war,13 did not return.

Though New Zealand troops played rugby throughout the conflict, the most famous match was after the war, in 1919, when a Services team beat a team from the rest of the world and the British Forces to win what is recognised as one of the first international rugby tournments.

The Defence Blacks will embark on a tour to Europe and the United Kingdom in September/October which will take the team from the Western Front battlefields to the rugby arenas of the United Kingdom.

The Defence Blacks will play two matches in Europe:

• A French selection in Paris, on 29 September, to commemorate a match in 1917 when the NZ Division played a French military side in front of 60,000 people.

• The Belgium national team, on 3 October, as part of the Dave Gallaher Memorial Tournament at Zonnebeke.

On 4 October, members will attend a commemoration at s’ Gravenstafel in Belgium where, on that day in 1917, some 320 New Zealanders lost their lives. They included Dave Gallaher, the captain of the 1905/06 All Blacks, whose grave they will visit. They will also visit the French town of Arras, where New Zealand tunnellers worked during the war.

In the United Kingdom on 8 October they will play their first match in the International Defence Force Rugby World Cup against the Japanese Self Defense Force team. On 12 October they play the Royal Navy, and on 15 October they play Fiji. The quarter finals are on 19 October.

This tour would not be possible without the support of the Auckland and Christchurch RSAs, Rolls Royce, NEC, Datacom, Vodafone, Work Wear, and BLK.

The Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, says the new name for the rugby team is a fitting acknowledgement of the heritage between the Defence Force and the All Blacks.

“We have a long history with rugby. Down the years it has helped contribute to our military effectiveness, teaching important values and skills and serving as a valuable respite for those on active duty.”


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