All Blacks wear poppies with pride

All Blacks jersey (Twitter)
All Blacks jersey (Twitter)

Rome - As football ties itself in knots over whether teams should be allowed to wear poppies during matches, the All Blacks have underlined the importance they attach to honouring New Zealand's war dead at this time of year.

The world champions will run out against Italy in Rome on Saturday in special versions of the famous jersey, featuring poppies embroidered into the sleeves.

And they will do so without any fear of sanction from the game's governing body - something they could not do in football, where FIFA has deemed the poppy to constitute a breach of its ban on political, religious or commercial symbols.

Flanker Matt Todd said wearing the special shirts for Tests around the November 11 anniversary of the World War I armistice was "a great honour that means a hell of a lot to the team".

"It is for the veterans and for those servicemen still serving," he added.

"Without what they sacrificed and the courage they showed, we might not be in the situation that we are to play.

"We have the utmost respect for our servicemen, past and present."

Like several of his team-mates, Chiefs scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow looked incredulous when asked about FIFA's ban, which has come to a head over England and Scotland's determination to sport poppies during their World Cup qualifier at Wembley on Friday.

"I wouldn't have a clue why they (FIFA) would do that," he said.

Flyhalf Aaron Cruden said wearing the commemorative flower enhanced his sense of honour at playing for his country.

"Adding that on top of representing the All Blacks, your family and friends and the people back home - it is really important."

Among those who will be remembered in poignant services over the coming days will be the first captain of the All Blacks, Dave Gallaher, who was one of 13 New Zealand internationals who died in the 1914-18 Great War.

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