England to wear black at RWC

by RUGBY.com.au staff

England rugby bosses have angered World Cup hosts New Zealand by revealing they will wear an all-black kit for their opening match against Argentina.

Although England usually play in white, their apparel sponsor Nike are due to unveil a new away kit on August 1 and the English Rugby Football Union (RFU) on Friday confirmed Martin Johnson's team would wear the all-black strip for their opening pool match against Argentina in Dunedin on September 10.

The decision to copy New Zealand's iconic All Black jersey, which has a 127-year history, has already triggered a furious response from the tournament hosts.

Rugby traditionalists in New Zealand see the cheeky marketing ploy as an insult to the All Blacks' rich tradition and even the country's Prime Minister John Key has criticised the decision.

New Zealand's famous All Black kit is made by adidas, who are long-standing rivals of Nike in the sportswear market.

Even England's World Cup training gear has a Kiwi twist, with a red rose crest on the shirt surrounded by ancient Maori symbols and decorations.

However, the RFU insist there is no desire to provoke the Kiwis.

"England are obliged by the Rugby World Cup participation agreement to have a change strip," an RFU spokesperson said.

"We have worked with Nike on producing a shirt that complies with Rugby World Cup and International Rugby Board regulations and, fully aware of the significance of a black shirt to New Zealand's players and population as a whole, we have fully consulted with the NZRU, who confirmed they had no issues.

"England will therefore wear the black change shirt against Argentina at the Otago Stadium in Dunedin on September 10 due to a clash with the light blue and white of the Pumas. They will wear their white home shirt in their other World Cup pool matches.

"We believe the black shirt will be very popular with supporters as previous change shirts, such as purple and anthracite in November 2009 and 2010 respectively, have been."

It is understood the controversial kit will be used for the first time against Wales at Twickenham on August 6 and then in the return match in Cardiff the following weekend.

The kit will also be worn in Dublin for England's last warm-up game against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on August 27.