6 September 2019
The All Blacks aren’t the only New Zealand team playing in a rugby world cup this month.
The International Defence Rugby Competition (IDRC), the military equivalent of the Rugby World Cup, is being played throughout September in Japan.
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) team, known as the Defence Blacks, comprising servicemen from the Royal New Zealand Navy, New Zealand Army and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and one civilian, will play in the competition against military teams from Australia, United Kingdom, Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Canada, Georgia, Japan and France.
This will be the third IDRC competition, with the British Army winning the first in 2011 and the Fijian Army winning the second in 2015.
NZDF Contingent Commander Colonel James Kaio said the team had come together well during several training camps.
“We are an integrated military, so while the team members are all proud of the particular Service they belong to, at the end of the day they are brothers in arms and train and play together accordingly,” Colonel Kaio said.
The team is made up of premier club rugby players, a number of whom compete at Heartland Rugby level.
The standard of rugby at the IDRC was expected to be high again, with the teams from the United Kingdom, Fiji and Australia looking particularly good on paper, Colonel Kaio said.
“But we don’t play on paper. The NZDF players know what is in front of them and are committed to representing the NZDF and New Zealand with passion, skill and professionalism.”
The Defence Blacks fly to Japan on Sunday, 8 September, on a Royal New Zealand Air Force aircraft. On the way, the aircraft will stop at Fiji and Tonga to pick up the teams from those countries for the IDRC.
Defence Blacks captain Corporal Jaxon Tagavaitau, who is based at the Linton Military Camp near Palmerston North, said taking the defending champion Fijians could cause a bit of banter on the flight.
“However, we are part of the larger Pacific community, so supporting our brothers from the Tongan and Fijian military teams by transporting them to and from Japan is just a continuation of the excellent relations NZDF have with countries in our neighbourhood,” he said.
Former Royal New Zealand Navy member and All Black captain Wayne Shelford will also travel with the team. As Patron of New Zealand Defence Force Rugby, he brings a wealth of playing and coaching experience, which he will use to support the management group and get the best out of the players.