A history of rugby on New Zealand TV

12:10 pm on 19 September 2015

Like the game itself, the way New Zealanders watch rugby has changed dramatically through the years.

Played, watched and talked about, rugby is inescapable presence when you're in New Zealand.

If you're anything like me, having a nice Sunday morning breakfast ruined by the All Blacks' 2007 quarterfinals loss to France is still etched in your memory.

Full Rugby World Cup Coverage

Having a day spoilt by a live rugby match on the other side of the globe, however, is a relatively modern innovation.

Rugby wasn't always screened live, and TV coverage of the sport hasn't only been match coverage. How did we see the sport before live broadcasts; before we had to "touch" and "pause" during a scrum?

These days, with TV ads and music videos for Cure Kids, the All Blacks are known to have a lighter side.

The Good, The Bad and The Rugby

This was not always the case. Aiming to show the All Blacks as friendly and personable for one of the first times on screen, classic documentary The Good, the Bad, and the Rugby follows the ABs 1989 tour of Great Britain, giving a behind-the-scenes look at how they act when not on the field, whether working hard or hardly working.

A few legends make appearances too. Amongst them, John Kirwan narrates and Zinzan Brooke appears in an unusual position - atop a Shetland pony.

Through Scrummage, Three Quarters and All

Going back a little further than that 1989 tour is this National Film Unit short on the game from 1966. With rugby already well established as a New Zealand tradition by the time this was made, the film investigates our rugby culture and how it is that boys grow up to become All Blacks, from kids running around paddocks to packed stands watching the "traditional" match-up of Nelson vs Wellington.

This film also features a few legends of the game: fullbacks Bob Scott and Don Clarke, as well as highlights from some of the greatest All Black tests in (then) recent history.

All Blacks Invincibles Tour

Pre-dating even the NFU's founding by 16 years, this silent gem takes a look at the legendary 1924/25 All Blacks tour, where they went unbeaten in all 32 matches and returned as "The Invincibles". In what almost seems ironic now, the doco takes a "peep into the past" looking at footage of the 1905 "Originals" tour. The jerseys have changed considerably - I think the strip of leather sewn across the shoulders would make a great look for the 2015 squad.

Extraordinary Kiwis - Dan Carter

Leaping back to the present day (ish), 2010 documentary series Extraordinary Kiwis checks out arguably the best player in the world (at the time): Dan Carter.

Carter, who is set to leave New Zealand to play rugby in France after the World Cup, takes presenter Clarke Gayford through his day, from training on the rugby field, to his photo shoots and running his Italian clothing store.

Carter proves himself to be a truly modern rugby player - as confident posing in his jockeys as he is on the rugby field.


While the modern players might seem less rugged, few would describe the game's bone-shaking hits (and subsequent falls) as graceful. This 1980 film from the NFU aims to prove otherwise.

By shooting the sport in slow-motion and setting it to a Tchaikovsky score, the 1979 French tour of New Zealand becomes a ballet, as the team takes on provincial teams around the country.

They conclude the tour by facing the All Blacks on the French Bastille Day. Painfully, echoing that horrid Sunday morning in 2007, it is the French who are celebrating victory when the full-time whistle blows.

Check out NZ On Screen's full collection of rugby videos.

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