Ian Foster’s Men Bagged The Raeburn Shield, The ‘Oldest’ Title In World Rugby

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The All Blacks not only won a linear rugby title that dates back to the very first international match ever played with their victory over Ireland on Saturday morning, but they also moved one step closer to capturing their fourth Rugby World Cup.

Like a boxing championship, the Raeburn Shield is a fictional, linear title that can only be won by defeating the existing holders. The victor defends it in every game they play. The Utrecht Shield is awarded to the women’s competition as well; this weekend, the Black Ferns and All Blacks will defend their crowns.

A group of rugby fans, including Dunedin-born Dave Algie, came up with the shield in 2008. His anguish over losing to France in the 2007 World Cup quarterfinals spurred him to investigate the concept of the shield.

“I was on an online rugby forum, and there was a bunch of us where we were like, this is awful, there has to be a better way,” said Algie. “And that was when we came up with the idea of tracing right back to the start from when we did this as a lineal title.”

Since 2008, Algie has maintained the Raeburn Shield mythology through her website. The shields are “named” after the locations of the first men’s and women’s international competitions: the first men’s test was held in 1871 between Scotland and England at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh, and the first women’s international competition was held in 1982 between the Netherlands and France in Utrecht.

After giving the shield to Ireland in June of last year while losing the series 2-1, the All Blacks were able to reclaim it this past weekend.

“Ireland brought over the Raeburn Shield in that series, having won it in the Six Nations,” said Algie. “They lost it in the first match to NZ. So as soon as you win it, you have to defend it, so Ireland took it back in match two and kept it in match three.

“They hadn’t let go of it, because they hadn’t lost until this quarter-final.”

According to Algie, he kept track of the shield so that rugby fans would have something to look forward to during the four years between World Cups.

“This is cool, this should exist,” he said. “This would enhance World Rugby, for fans, for players, for all of us, so we should do it.”