Rugby Union is considered an integral part of New Zealand culture. The sport was first known in New Zealand from 1870, and since the first national team, the All Blacks have dominated world rugby. Despite this, the All Blacks have only ever won one World Cup, but have dominated every other award and trophy. The main domestic competition is the Air New Zealand Cup. Above that is Super Rugby which consists of twelve teams made up from New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. The pinnacle of world rugby is the World Cup. New Zealand hosted the first ever World Cup final in 1987 and won, and won the 2011 Rugby World Cup which was also hosted in New Zealand.
In the history of the game, many famous New Zealand rugby players have emerged. Some outstanding players and legends of the game include: John Kirwan, Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Wayne Shelford, Sean Fitzpatrick, Colin Meads, Zinzan Brooke, Michael Jones, Jonah Lomu, and Christian Cullen.
The total amount of competitions and trophies that the New Zealand competes in include the World Cup, Super Rugby, Tri Nations, Bledisloe Cup, Pacific Nations Cup, World Cup Sevens, and IRB Sevens World Series. Some of these trophies run in the same competition such as The Rugby Chamionship which also runs in tandem with the Bledisloe Cup against Australia and the Freedom Cup against South Africa.
There is an All Black Māori Team which is a representative side that play national teams touring New Zealand. Players have to be of Maori descent. This team has on ocassion beaten many of the world's top national teams including the number two ranked team in the world, the Springboks.
New Zealand teams have also dominated Super Rugby winning most of the titles to date. Super Rugby is a competition that includes teams from different regions in the 3 best rugby nations in the world, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.
After the Super Rugby competition is finished, the Rugby Championship starts. This competition includes the national teams of the main Southern Hemispehere nations that play rugby, namely, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina.
When the Super Rugby season is over, these teams will tour the Northern Hemispehere and play against the likes of England, France, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. These games are not part of a single competition, but are international games that count in the International Rugby Board (IRB) stats.
When the international season of rugby is over, a domestic rugby competition called ' The Air New Zealand Cup' kicks off. It is a professional competition contested by provincial teams. The Ranfurly Shield, (the Log of Wood), is an additional award given at this provincial level. The provincial union with the shiled defends it and if a challenger wins, they become the new holders.
Rugby Sevens is a variant of rugby union. Instead of 15 players that the regular game has, it has only 7 players that play 7 minutes each half. The game is short, faced paced, and high scoring. The atmosphere in a sevens game is similar to a festival with many spectators dressing up in wild costumes. The main competition is the IRB Sevens World Series which is contested in a global curcuit of 8 countries on 5 continents. Countries that host this competition each year include: South Africa, United Arab Emirates, United States, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, England, and Scotland. There is also a Rugby World Cup Sevens competition that runs every 4 years. Sevens is also an Olympic and Commonwealth Games sport. The New Zealand Sevens team is no 1 world ranked team.