Rugby is the national sport of New Zealand. In fact many would argue that it really is the only sport that matters and some refer to it as a ‘religion’. Sure there are other sports that Kiwis enjoy; cricket, netball and rugby league. But no one in their right mind could ever argue that rugby is not the number one sport. The mood of the nation, the health of the national economy and the general well being of the population is often linked to how well the All Blacks are travelling.
So the question is why is the game so big in NZ? Why has it become such an intrinsic part of the country’s culture and national identity? Rugby brings the country together as no other event does and everyone in New Zealand can relate to what the game means, even if they do not slavishly follow it. Obviously the game has British roots and so do a large percentage of Kiwis. But the local Maori and the many Islanders, who also call New Zealand home, have adopted the game as their own and the sheer physical strength and athleticism required for rugby is well suited to the Polynesian physique.
It is no exaggeration to say that the All Blacks have the same patriotic effect on New Zealanders as the flag does in most other countries. The mere sight of a silver fern will raise the emotions of a New Zealander far more that the national flag any day. Any Kiwi traveller who sees someone wearing an All Black jersey with a silver fern proudly displayed on their chest will know that they have found a fellow Kiwi and a lover of the ‘game they play in heaven’.
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