|Affiliation||New Zealand Rugby|
|Regional affiliation||Wellington Hurricanes|
The Wellington Rugby Football Union (known as the Wellington Lions for competition reasons) are a New Zealand governing body of rugby union in the New Zealand province of Wellington Region. The main stadium is Sky Stadium (formerly named Westpac Stadium) which is located in Wellington. The union also represents the Wellington Lions, which is professional rugby union team who compete in the Mitre 10 Cup competition and contest for the Ranfurly Shield. Before 2006 the Lions competed in the National Provincial Championship.
Players from Wellington who are eligible to play in the Super Rugby generally play for the Hurricanes, and traditionally contribute the core of the Hurricanes squad. This position is largely due to the Wellington basing of the Hurricanes. Further, Manawatu and Hawke's Bay, two Hurricane provinces and prolific talent producers, had long been mired in the second half of the National Provincial Championship, allowing Wellington to lure the better players of these provinces with ease (Christian Cullen from Manawatu for example). The reorganisation of provincial rugby in 2006 brought all three provinces into the Mitre 10 Cup.
The senior Wellington representative team, the Wellington Lions play in the Mitre 10 Cup, which replaced the National Provincial Championship in 2006 as the Air New Zealand Cup. The Lions have won the provincial competition five times since its inception in 1976. The titles came in 1978, 1981, 1986, 2000 and most recently the second tier competition, the Championship, in 2017. Their colours are gold and black as shown on the Lions jersey. The Lions play their home games at the Sky Stadium (formerly named Westpac Stadium), previously playing at Athletic Park until 1999. Even with an All-Star backline in the late 1990s including Christian Cullen, Tana Umaga, Jonah Lomu and Alama Ieremia what was a superb team on paper never lived up to expectations and Wellington became known for its inconsistency. The Lions side have made it all the way to the grand final in seven times out of the last ten years (2004-2014), losing to Auckland in 2003, to Canterbury in 2004, to Waikato in 2006, Auckland in 2007, Canterbury in 2008, 2009 and most recently 2013. In 2014 Wellington lost a record nine straight losses and were relegated to the Mitre10 Cup Championship 2015. They won the Mitre10 Championship in 2017 over Bay of Plenty 59-45 to regain promotion to the Premiership in 2018.
The Ranfurly Shield, colloquially known as the 'Log o' Wood', is perhaps the most prestigious trophy in New Zealand domestic rugby. First played for in 1904, the Ranfurly Shield is based on a challenge system, rather than a league or knockout competition as with most football trophies. The holding union must defend the Shield in home matches, and if a challenger defeats them, they become the new holder of the Shield.
Wellington won the first ever shield challenge winning it from Auckland in 1904 and defended it for 4 matches before losing it back to Auckland in 1905. It wouldn't be until 1914 when Wellington would get the shield back by winning it off Taranaki. This marked the longest time Wellington have held the shield successfully defending it for 15 matches until losing it again to Southland in 1920. They beat Southland a year later to regain the shield before promptly losing to Hawkes Bay after only 2 matches. Wellington held the shield for only one match in 1930 and after losing it to Canterbury they would not regain the shield until 1953. Up until the 1980s Wellington had short stints defending the shield but after losing it to Canterbury in 1982 it was to prove elusive. Wellington suffered 10 unsuccessful challenges for the Ranfurly Shield until they took it off Auckland in 2008, scoring five tries in a 27-0 victory, on the weekend of the Auckland Union's 125th anniversary.
Wellington lost the shield to Canterbury on 29 August, losing 36-14 at the then Westpac Stadium. Canterbury then held the shield for 4 defences (over 8 weeks) before losing to Southland on 22 October. It is currently held by Waikato who defeated Hawke's Bay on 9 October 2015 by 36-30.
Wellington has played a number of times against touring international rugby teams. Wellington drew with the British and Irish Lions in 1888 and beat them in 1908, 1930 and 1966 . They have also played other international sides including South Africa, who were beaten in 1965. The Bill Freeman coached Wellington side defeated the Springboks 23-6, arguably the finest moment in Wellington rugby history.
Full results for Wellington against international touring sides: 1882 lost to New South Wales 2-14 1882 lost to New South Wales 0-8 1886 beat New South Wales 7-0 1888 drew with British team 3-3 1894 beat New South Wales 9-5 1896 beat Queensland 49-7 1901 beat New South Wales 17-16 1905 beat Australia 23-7 (combined team with Wairarapa and Horowhenua 1908 beat Anglo-Welsh 19-13 1921 lost to South Africa 3-8 1921 beat New South Wales 16-8 1923 beat New South Wales 29-16 (combined team with Manawatu) 1925 beat New South Wales 20-8 (combined team with Manawatu and Horowhenua) 1930 beat British Lions 12-8 1931 beat Australia 15-8 1937 lost to South Africa 0-29 1946 lost to Australia 15-16 1950 lost to British Isles 6-12 1956 lost to South Africa 6-8 1959 lost to British Isles 6-21 1963 lost to England 9-14 1965 beat South Africa 23-6 1966 beat British Isles 20-6 1969 lost to Wales 6-14 1971 lost to British Isles 9-47 1973 beat England 25-16 1975 lost to Scotland 25-36 1977 lost to British Isles 6-13 1979 lost to France 9-14 1980 beat Fiji 24-8
Club rugby is a large part of Wellington rugby. 18 clubs currently comprise the Wellington union and all contribute at least one team to the club competitions. The premier trophy in Wellington club rugby is the Jubilee Cup, which was won in 2012 by Marist St Pat's. Petone are the club with the most Jubilee Cup successes having won the title 22 times.
Years in parenthesis are when the current club was formed, though many are amalgamations of previously extant clubs. For example, Oriental-Rongotai claim their heritage back to the formation of the Oriental club in 1888 even though the current club was formed in 1969.
Wellington FC is New Zealand's oldest continuous club.
Wellington club rugby is contested over the following grades, following a change to the structure:
Remaining grades include age-restricted (Under 21 years), weight-restricted (Under 85 kg), Reserve grade, and the non-competition presidents grade.
High School rugby is organised by College Sport Wellington, with open-age/weight (Premier), weight-restricted (Under 80 kg, 65 kg, and 55 kg), and age-restricted (Under 15 years) for boys, and an open Girls grade. Each grade then comprises several divisions.
Wellington Senior Club Championship Winners since 1880:
The Jubilee Cup has been played for since 1929, with the winners being:
2019 Northen United
Main sponsor is Stonewood Homes. Apparel is supplied by Paladin. Other Major sponsors include:
Wellington has a women's team that are part of the Women's Provincial Championship, called the Wellington Pride. Wellington Pride is the only team aside from Auckland to have won the Women's Championship.