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Top 5 international rugby kits

By Luke Stockwell
The Barbarian team lines up during the National Anthems before The Killik Cup match between the Barbarians and The Australian Wallabies at Twickenham Stadium on November 1, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

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All rugby fans know that looking good on the pitch doesn’t win any trophies. Having said that, a great kit can make teams a quick fan favourite or even iconic.

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The best kits resemble something greater than the game and can transport fans back to a specific match or memory.

To celebrate the best kits the game of rugby has produced, this list will highlight the top five international shirts. Some are full of flare, others are timeless classics – either way the kits in this list show it’s possible to look good even with your head in a scrum.

1. Japan 2019:

Shirts and kit on display in the Japan dressing room prior to the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group A game between Japan and Scotland at International Stadium Yokohama on October 13, 2019 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Clive Rose – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Sometimes rugby can transcend tries, tackles and lineouts.

The home kit from Japan during their own Rugby World Cup in 2019 is a prime example of this.

The tournament marked a defining moment in the history of rugby as its greatest competition reached Asian shores for the first time, making this kit hugely significant before Japan had even played in it.

It also helps that country had an outstanding tournament in this kit, wearing it during their unforgettable victory over Scotland just days after a typhoon had hit the country.

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Then you have the shirt itself. Japan as a country has always been synonymous with outstanding beauty, and this shirt is a perfect representation of this. The unique approach to horizontal stripes gives it a classic look which pays homage to the Land of the Rising Sun’s heritage.

Another feature of the jersey which puts it easily into the top five is the gold accents. Gold can sometimes be overused on kits (See Ospreys home top from the 09/10 season) and has the potential to ruin an otherwise great shirt. In this case however, the gold is used perfectly – the thin lines under each stripe make the shirt even more timeless.

2. New Zealand 2015:

All Black captain Richie McCaw wears the 2015 Rugby World Cup jersey during the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby World Cup jersey launch at The Northern Club on July 1, 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The All Blacks, with a completely black kit – what’s not to love? A fully black New Zealand shirt is nothing out of the ordinary for rugby fans, but this kit went one step further by also darkening the numbers and logos. This allowed the already brilliant colours of Kiwi rugby to create a shirt that was truly brilliant.

While it may not have the artistic touches of Japan’s kit in 2019, this All Blacks number is more representative of the respect given to New Zealand at the time and was the perfect shirt to wear when the Kiwi’s won their second world cup in a row.

3. Lions 1997:

Martin Johnson of the British Lions relaxes in the afternoon sun during a feature in Blouberg Strand, South Africa. Mandatory Credit: David Rogers /Allsport
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1997 is perhaps the defining tour in the British & Irish Lions‘ rich history and it is fitting that the kit from that year was the best Lions kit ever produced.

The simplicity of the Lion’s traditional red and white has always been appealing but 1997 marked the first year Adidas had the rights to the shirt, and with that came the iconic three stripes on the sleeves. The simple white sponsor logo also fits well onto the shirt and doesn’t detract from the classic look.

The shirt also boasted a prominent white colour which had the added detail of a lion on the right hand side – a small touch which only added to the greatness of the kit.

4. Australia 2017:

Israel Folau of the Wallabies runs with the ball during the Bledisloe Cup match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

In recent seasons it has become extremely popular for kits, in any sport, to adopt a classic look or try and replicate an historical design. Australia attempted this in 2017 and got it spot on.

Firstly, they have kept true to their iconic gold and green, which always looks powerful on the pitch. However, what makes this kit one of the best ever is the pattern across the sleeves and bottom of the shirt which is a nod to the country’s indigenous heritage.

Not only does the shirt look incredible, it is an important tribute to the nation’s history and culture. The design became so popular with fans and players that the AFU bought an adaptation of the kit back for the alternate shirt in 2019 – a truly beautiful and significant kit.

5. Barbarians:

Nick Cummins of the Barbarians celebrates after scoring a try during the Killick Cup match between the Barbarians and Australian Wallabies at Twickenham Stadium on November 1, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Despite being one of the most iconic and well loved teams in the game, the Barbarians are often forgotten about when discussing the best kits of all time. Not in this list.

The black and white stripes have always been an extremely effective combo and a large number of Ba-Bas kits could have featured in this list. The one we have chosen reflects the traditional thick hoops of a Barbarians kit and also has a collar, which always looks good on a rugby kit.

Ba-Bas jerseys have the added bonus of only being worn by players who have been invited to play for the team, making them a badge of honour as much as a kit.

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