What Makes New Zealand Such A Dominant Rugby Nation?
There is no doubt that the All Blacks are the strongest nation in world rugby, and having been at the top of the World Rugby rankings longer than every other nation put together, they are a scalp that every international rugby team aims to claim.
Statistically, they are the greatest nation ever to have played the game and are the only team in the world to have a winning record against every single team. But what makes this country of only 4.6 million people so strong? Is there something in the water, or is it to do with the hard, maori mindset that is drilled into each All Black child as early as their famous haka?
Speaking to my step-grandfather, who attended school in Wellington in the 1950s, there is only one word that describes the New Zealand attitude to rugby, and that is ‘religion’. He talked about how his school of 1000 would often put out 20 rugby teams every week, compared to the 7 for hockey and 4 for football. He fondly recalls how each and every pupil had aspirations to be an All Black and the very few that didn’t were simply ostracised by the general community. His coach, a former All Black, was treated like a god by both pupils and staff members, and the current All Blacks were more well known than actors or musicians.
This mindset is something that has clearly been transported down the generations, because even now the attitude is the same. The fierce rivalries between supporters of the Super Rugby teams creates a level of competition that has led to a New Zealand team winning the title more than twice as many times as the country in second.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 16, 2017
Now if All Black rugby is a religion, then it’s church is the Auckland stadium of Eden Park. Here the All Blacks have not lost a game since 1994. This 23-year long winning streak has seen them lift 2 Rugby World Cups, and only draw a single game against the Lions in 2017. This staggering record is largely due to the atmosphere that the fans create, but also due to the confidence of the All Blacks that almost borders on arrogance. They know they can win at Eden Park and this is something that is unlikely to change at any time in the future.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 11, 2017
Speaking to the people of New Zealand it is clear that they have an immense sense of pride in their team. It it their national sport and one that has been developed at both international and grassroots level. The New Zealand Rugby Board achieved more than 50% of its aims during 2016.These aims included increasing participation in Women’s rugby, as well as developing younger referees, and coaches.
Overall, it is clear to see that despite a small population, the mindset of the Kiwis is one that both sets them apart from other rugby nations, and establishes them as the global rugby super power.