NZ Maori and sevens adopt 'All Blacks' name
Change to boost NZRU coffersDUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Should the New Zealand Maori and Sevens rugby teams also be called All Blacks?
In a radical move reeking of commercialism, the New Zealand Rugby Union has extended the All Blacks brand to the Sevens and Maori teams.
The NZRU today announced the New Zealand men's Sevens team and New Zealand Maori are to be officially referred to as the All Blacks Sevens and Maori All Blacks.
The changes take effect for the next IRB Sevens World Series later this year and for New Zealand Maori on their northern hemisphere tour later this year.
The All Blacks name has been almost exclusively linked to the senior New Zealand test team apart from the age-restricted Junior All Blacks teams.
"Significantly, this name change will expand the commercial and partnership opportunities available to us so providing much needed funds for all layers of the game in New Zealand," NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said.
"We need $100 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, but opportunities are more limited in New Zealand and the economic climate also makes it very challenging.
"This 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.
"From Las Vegas to Dubai, the Sevens team plays in more places, more often than the All Blacks. The next season extends from October to May and will be longer in coming years as more tournaments are added. As well, the Olympics provides a fantastic new opportunity on the biggest sporting stage in the world."
The move threatens the aura of the famous All Blacks though Tew defended that.
"The definition of an All Black will not change. To be capped as an All Black you must take the field in a fifteen aside test match," Tew said.
"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."
Tew said research showed the fans overseas regarded New Zealand rugby sides as All Blacks because of their uniforms.
"This change recognises a commonly held perception the world over, whether it be fans, sports media and at times even other rugby unions and tournament organisers," Tew said.
"Both teams already wear a black jersey and the identical silver fern; this name change simply catches up with how many people already see these teams as being linked to the All Blacks."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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