For most rugby followers, the 1905 All Black tour of Britain has assumed legendary proportions. By its end, this unheralded team had taken the traditional rugby strongholds by storm, dazzled with their athleticism and innovative style, accumulated a string of huge victories, claimed a moral ‘draw’ with Wales, and put their young colony firmly on the world map. The tour created the ‘All Blacks’ name and mystique and enshrined expectations of international success that show little sign of receding. Its associated myths and symbols are etched in the collective consciousness of New Zealand rugby enthusiasts.
'The Contest for Rugby Supremacy' provides a new and critical perspective on the events and personalities of the 1905 tour. It examines key themes in the formative years of New Zealand rugby that both shaped the success of the All Blacks and produced frequent controversy around them; explores significant political and sporting debates during the course of the tour; reassesses the achievements of the team within a British sporting world in which soccer was dominant and rugby union was severely weakened by the rise of rugby league in the north; sets the supposed controversy of the loss to Wales in a wider context; and finally considers the significant deterioration in British–Australasian rugby relations in the years immediately after the tour.