Mementoes of the 1905 tour which established New Zealand as one of the world's pre-eminent rugby nations, and coined the name All Blacks, were welcomed home by Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday.
A cap and jersey belonging to team-member Duncan McGregor and a ball signed by team captain Dave Gallaher have been made available for display in New Zealand by their owner, English collector Allan Townsend.
The 1905 All Blacks, known to New Zealanders as "the Originals," played 35 matches in Britain and Europe on a tour lasting several months. Their only loss, by 3-0 to Wales, was deeply controversial and remains a talking point between the countries more than a century later.
Scotland-born McGregor, a winger dubbed the Flying Scotsman after scoring four of his 16 tour tries for New Zealand in a single Test against England, left the cap and jersey in Britain when the team returned home.
New Zealand's winning margin against England, 15-0, was a record in matches between the two countries until 1985 and McGregor's four-try performance was not surpassed until 1987.
McGregor was considered large for an outside back in 1905 but at 175cm and 71kg would be considered unlikely to make a modern Test backline in which most players weigh 90kg or more.
New Zealand Sports Minister Trevor Mallard commented yesterday on the surprisingly small size of McGregor's jersey.
"I don't think that would go around Jonah [Lomu's] calf, let alone his chest," he said.
McGregor later represented New Zealand at rugby league. Gallaher died in the Battle of Paschendale in 1917 and is remembered by a trophy contested in Tests between New Zealand and France.
The jersey and ball will initally be displayed at New Zealand Rugby Union headquarters in Wellington and will likely remain in New Zealand until the 2011 World Cup.
"It was during the 1905 tour that the iconic `All Blacks' name -- now one of the most recognizable names in international sport -- was coined," Clark said.
"Much has been written over the years about the impact of dramatic events of World War I and of battles like that at Gallipoli in the forging of New Zealand's identity," she said.
"On an occasion like this it's also important to acknowledge the role of rugby and the 1905 tour in shaping our unique identity," Clark said.