"All Blacks" - The Name

The 1905/6 New Zealand Rugby Football Union team touring Britain were famous. Not just for their winning playing record but also because they made the name “All Blacks” widely known. There are still incorrect rumours as to how they came by that title.

The Real Story

Today the accepted view is the name “All Blacks” came about as a consequence of their uniform which was composed of black jersey, shorts and socks. "The New Zealand team, dressed all in black..." The use of the word "All" was common in the early 20th Century. It's use probably distinguished a fully international team from a team representing that country. In rugby "All Japan" was used for the Japanese international side.

Dr Ron Palenski, journalist, author and historian, wrote in "Rugby: A New Zealand History":

"Whatever happened or did not happen in 1905, the team was known as the All Blacks when it arrived in Britain. There is no other way to explain this sentence in the Exeter Express the morning after the first match. 'The All Blacks, as they are styled by reason of their sable and unrelieved costume,...'"

"The first known published reference to All Blacks was in relation to the Natives... in mid-1889."

"Four years later [1893], when the first official New Zealand team was in Australia, an Auckland journalist wrote of a pending match against New South Wales: 'I expect to see the all blacks come out on top with a substantial majority.'

The False Story

Billy Wallace, one of the 1905/6 New Zealand players, speaking at the team’s 50th Jubilee in 1955, gave his version of how the name originated:

‘Now I’m just going to mention how we got the name of ‘All Blacks’. These coves don’t know, I was on the Committee and I know all about it. We played Hartlepool and we beat them 63-0, and the ‘Daily Mail’, an English paper, wrote up ‘New Zealand team all backs’ you see. So we were, all our forwards could pass as good as any back, and it was headed up ‘New Zealand All Backs’. And the next match we went on, I think it was Somerset. This ‘All Black’ was a printer’s error and we went on to Somerset and all around the town it said ‘Come and see the All Blacks play’, the printer had made a mistake and instead of ‘All Back’ he had got the l in somehow and made it ‘All Black’, and that’s how the name ………….of ‘All Blacks’ originated and it’s stuck ever since."

Winston McCarthy, rugby journalist and radio commentator wrote in "HAKA! THE ALL BLACKS STORY.":

"The other, and the one to which I incline, is that the name originated with the London ‘Daily Mail’ Rugby writer, J.A. Buttery, who in a paper-back issued after the tour, ‘Why the All Blacks Triumphed’, said that he began referring to the team as All Blacks because of the colour of their uniform. The only colour not black was the Silver Fern on the left breast and the white of their boot laces.”