Watch the All Blacks, Black Ferns new LGBT video campaign, supporting rainbow community's battle against discrimination

New Zealand's top rugby teams have made a strong statement on where they stand on diversity and the inclusion of the LGBT community thanks to a new campaign they've launched called 'Diversity is Strength'.

The All Blacks and Black Ferns have teamed up with major sponsor AIG for the campaign, releasing a two-minute video on the teams' values and the challenges they face.

The teams are shown in the clip entering a stadium in Osaka, Japan and preparing for a game, however a narrator says it's no typical rugby match.

"The next battle is different," he says.

"The next enemy is truly formidable and deeply devious.

"It is discrimination - an enemy that cannot be fought alone and must be defeated together.

"It will take more than 15 - it will take thousands - millions"

The two teams are then shown lining up together on the field to present a "united black" with a rainbow, a common symbol used to represent the LGBT community, appearing on their jerseys.

The video comes in the wake of comments made by Wallabies player Israel Folau last month, when he said gay people would go to "hell, unless they repent of their sins and turn to God."

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Watch: Smiling assassin Damian McKenzie adds another tool to arsenal, nails goal-kicking with both feet

Damian McKenzie appears to have refined another attacking tool in his already impressive repertoire after sharing footage on social media of his goal-kicking skills - using both feet.

The 23-year-old, who is famous for his cheeky grin when he kicks, posted videos on Instagram of him practicing the art in Wanaka with pin-point accuracy as he hit a pole using both his left and right foot.

"Always finding ways to get better as a player," he said.

"No goal posts to kick at, so had to improvise a little. Aim small miss small they reckon. Could kick all day with this backdrop."

The skill drew the attention of multiple global sport icons, with NRL star Angus Crichton, former Wallaby Quade Cooper, cricketer AB de Villiers and fellow rugby players Vince Aso and Liam Squire all quick to praise his efforts.

The All Blacks first-five used a pole instead of goal posts as a target – and still nailed it. Source: Damian McKenzie / Instagram


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'He's very in the mix for the World Cup' - Hansen admits requesting NZR board bend eligibility rules for Matt Todd

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has admitted he submitted a request to New Zealand Rugby to allow Matt Todd to be selected for this year's end-of-year tour despite the fact he isn't eligible under current rules.

Todd is currently playing for the Panasonic Wild Knights after finishing his Super Rugby campaign with the Crusaders earlier this year, which would mean under normal circumstances he would be ineligible for the black jersey.

However, Hansen named Todd in his main 32-man unit as part of the larger 51-strong squad for this year's end-of-year tour, despite missing the cut earlier this year in both the French series and Rugby Championship.

"There's been no change of heart," Hansen said regarding the selection pattern around Todd.

Hansen told media Todd's selection was possible because he was returning to the Crusaders rugby next year.

"He's committed to New Zealand so when we lost Sam Cane, he's the obvious guy to replace Sam.

"He's very much in the mix for next year's World Cup."

However, Hansen admitted he did have to request to get Todd back in black.

"We went to the NZR board and requested that we use him with the understanding that he's coming back to play for the Crusaders. Thankfully they agreed."

The 30-year-old has earned 14 caps for the All Blacks since making his debut off the bench against France in 2013.

Todd is playing rugby in Japan but Steve Hansen says with him returning to the Crusaders, the NZR allowed him to make the cut. Source: 1 NEWS


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Watch: Steve Hansen shuts down reporter's challenge about Government funding for All Blacks

Steve Hansen has quashed the connection between his ongoing campaign for Government funding and the selection of an extremely big and financially-draining squad for this year's end-of-year tour.

Hansen announced a 51-man squad for the Japan and Northern Tour today and was challenged by one reporter why he picked such a large team when he's also asking for funding.

"Well firstly, we've asked the Government to be our sponsor and I don't think that's a silly thing," he said.

"We're one of the biggest brands this country's got and I think that it would be a smart play by any government to sponsor us and use us to sell their message."

The coach then replied to the challenge around his large squad.

"We and everybody in New Zealand that follows rugby has expectations that we continue to grow our talent, we continue to win Test matches and we've got some big Test matches to play.

"So we've decided to take every opportunity we can to get a group of players to London early so our preparation for that England Test is spot on.

"Secondly, it gives us the opportunity to keep developing players... these guys don't just develop sitting at home.

"Sometimes you have to spend money to make money."

The All Blacks coach first raised the issue earlier this year when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson were in the team's changing sheds after they secured the Bledisloe Cup at Eden Park.

"We and everybody in New Zealand

A reporter asked the All Blacks coach why he's using 51 players for a tour when he's also asking for financial support. Source: 1 NEWS


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Strategic Steve Hansen reveals thinking behind huge 51-man All Blacks squad

All Blacks coach Steven Hansen has explained the reasoning behind his decision to select a whopping 51 players for this year's end of year tour with both key 2018 Tests and next year's World Cup on his mind.

Hansen announced his large squad in Christchurch today before specifying it had been broken into two units - a 32-man team and a 19-strong wider squad.

The 32-man roster will be used throughout the tour while the extra 19 will only feature during the Japan leg of the tour.

"The idea of only naming 32, which is one less than last year, is to try and simulate as much as possible conditions that we will face from a selection point-of-view in the Rugby World Cup," he said.

"We have two games in Japan which allows us to simulate the round robin part of that competition."

Hansen said there was also a focus on the tour itself.

"With the big games of England and Ireland coming, we wanted to send a group of players early to London so they could get acclimatised and rest so we can get straight into our work on Monday morning.

"So we're sending 22 guys over early, hence the reason why we needed to bring some extras for the Japan week."

Hansen promised some "exciting" rugby from the penciled-in Japan team with a mix of experienced players and fresh faces included.

"[The extra 19] will go home after the Japan Tour so we won't have 51 on the tour. Only 32."

The All Blacks coach confirmed 32 players will be used in Europe with the extra 19 only needed for the short Japan leg. Source: 1 NEWS


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