Like most other thing to do with New Zealand rugby, the Māori All Blacks are not your average representative team. While most representatives teams are a bit of a jolly, more about socialising and rekindling the ‘amateur’ values of rugby union, the Māori are a deadly serious outfit – they beat the Lions in 2005, and regularly play A sides and Tier 2 nations. The Māori heritage aspect might be strictly enforced, but there’s little doubt that those that don the jersey of the Māori All Blacks see it as a dress rehearsal for putting on the real thing. 

Given their unique nature then, it’s fitting that the Māori All Blacks also have a unique shirt to reflect it, and unlike the spartan, clean nature of the full All Blacks shirt, there’s certainly an awful lot going on to discuss here. Indeed, this shirt was created specifically for the Māori’s recent tour of Japan, and with the help of renowned Maori artist Dave Burke the aim was to create a design that not only incorporated Maori images and stories, but also paid respect to traditional Maori and Japanese cultures.


Burke, along with Māori All Blacks Kaumātua Luke Crawford and senior team members got together to create a design that blends traditional Māori imagery with traditional Japanese iconography to create a bold, eye-catching design that’s certainly not like anything else in the rugby world.

We’ll be the first to admit that the precise nature of traditional Māori imagery and art is not our forte here at RSW, so we’ll leave it to Crawford (courtesy of the press blurb), to explain the precise thinking behind the design. “There are three key design elements that we focused on – the Takarangi on the shoulders, Ara Poutama on the ribs, and Manaia on the stomach region,” Crawford explains. “With the Takarangi, we wanted players to carry the beginnings of Maori and Japanese cultures on their shoulders. The Ara Poutama is a pattern that expresses the whakapapa and genealogy of both Maori and Japanese warriors. Then we have the Manaia, the two figures at the bottom of the jersey, which represent both the Maori and Japanese teams with their traditional weapons ready for battle. We wanted to show our Japanese friends that we’re very similar. Part of the design pays tribute to Maori moko art form and its similarity to Japanese culture and rituals around body tattooing.”


It’s a really cool idea – creating a shirt specifically for a tour or tournament, that reflects not only your own proud culture, but the similarities and common heritage that you both share. We suppose that it’s a similar idea to what England tried with their infamous black alternate shirt for the 2011 World Cup… though that wasn’t exactly taken in the spirit of cultural hegemony by many in New Zealand…

But we think there’s a really nice idea here – rugby’s a sport where you’re supposed hammer seven shades of shit out of your opponent for 80 minutes, then have a beer with them afterwards. By showcasing that two sides who are opponents on the field share much and have mutual respect for one another, this shirt nicely emphasises those values, and manages to look pretty damn striking while doing it.




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