Discover the Names of National Rugby Teams
The players of the New Zealand team are known as All Blacks, those of Argentina as The Pumas. Where do the names of the different national rugby teams come from? In the following article, we’ll tell you more.
Rugby teams and their names
All rugby teams are known by their nicknames, which have been inspired by the history, identity, and even the culture of each country. These names are famous to such an extent that they go by these names in all international championships, wherever they take place.
The custom of giving nicknames to rugby teams has been going on for several decades. For example, in the northern hemisphere the formula ‘the XV… ‘ is used in relation to the number of players per team, followed by the country’s shield, emblem, or color. Below we’ll tell you about some of the nicknames:
1. The All Blacks (New Zealand)
This is one of the most important national rugby teams in the world. The name refers to the uniform that the players use, which is completely black except for the white feather.
According to history, a journalist coined the nickname in 1905 when writing a chronicle after a match against Hartlepool. However, the note actually included the reference All Backs because of the team’s great ball handling.
Image: NZ Herald.
2. The Springboks, one of the most historic national rugby teams (South Africa)
The South African rugby team gets its name from the national animal: The jumping gazelle, or the Springbok. It’s present on the team’s shield, although it wasn’t always the same.
Previously, the emblem included the Springbok Gazelle. However, this was associated with the segregated sport of apartheid, when black nationals couldn’t play.
Other changes in the Springbok’s clothing were: Putting the protea flower on the left side–like all South African teams in different sports–and the gazelle on the right side.
3. The Pumas (Argentina)
Although the Argentine rugby team is associated with this feline, the truth is that the emblem actually represents another animal: The jaguar (yaguareté). On the one hand, the players got their name due to their fierceness. However, it’s also because it’s one of the national animals of Argentina, more precisely of Patagonia and the fields of the country.
The confusion between the two animals occurred in 1965 when a South African journalist indicated that it was a puma. Of course, as it’s easier to remember and to pronounce, that name remained. The current uniform has the shield of the Argentine Rugby Union, which includes the image of a jaguar.
4. The XV of the Rose (England)
The red rose is a characteristic symbol of this country and has a great history, as it was the emblem of the Lancasters (created by Henry III). And, as we mentioned above, XV refers to the 15 regular players on the rugby team.
5. Wallabies, a powerhouse among rugby teams (Australia)
When we think of Australia, we automatically imagine a kangaroo. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the rugby team of this country has chosen such an animal to represent it.
The wallaby is a small kangaroo native to the region and has been present on the shirt for several world cups. Besides being the national animal, it’s said to have been chosen for its speed and dynamism, two virtues that characterize the Australian team in the field.
6. The Gallic Rooster (Coq Gaulois) – France
These players are also known as Les Bleus (The Blues) in a clear allusion to the color of the uniform, or Les Tricoloress for the French flag. However, the fact that the rooster is related to France dates back to the Middle Ages. They realized that the word ‘gallus’ in Latin was synonymous with ‘coq’ in French.
Since then, the expression ‘gallus’ has been used as a synonym for ‘French’. The rugby team couldn’t ignore this history aside, and that’s why they proudly wear the rooster on their shirt.
There are many other interesting nicknames among national rugby teams. For example, the Irish team is the XV of Clover, the Welsh team The Red Dragons (as in the flag), those from Uruguay are The Teros (a native bird), and those from Chile, The Condors, in allusion to the bird that’s on that country’s coat of arms.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Smith, A. (2015). The Oval World: A Global History of Rugby. The International Journal of the History of Sport. https://doi.org/10.1080/09523367.2015.1120006