Privately organised and mainly Māori, this was the first national rugby team to wear the silver fern. During their tour of New Zealand, Australia and Britain, they played 107 rugby matches – winning 78 of them – plus eight under Australian rules and two association football games.
After a six-week journey from Australia by steamer the team disembarked at Tilbury, near London, on 27 September and began preparing to play 50 or 60 matches over the northern winter. The ‘noble Maori’ had arrived ‘to play an English game against English players’. Six days later, wearing black uniforms and after performing a haka, a team which had ‘caused much curiosity’ efficiently defeated a scratch Surrey XV 4–1.
Image: the Natives team, 1889