World Rugby's directive in banning rugby sevens players from writing personal messages on their wrist tape was 'buried' in an agreement signed by teams, says New Zealand Rugby Players Association chief executive Rob Nichol.

Nichol told the Radio Sport Breakfast that the law change, brought on by World Rugby to align the sport with the Olympics, was a surprise to the players.

"It came apparently through the participation agreement that the teams signed. But it was buried. We certainly weren't across it. New Zealand Rugby, I don't think were across it and the players haven't been consulted or involved in the decision, from our perspective anyway," Nichol told the Radio Sport Breakfast.

"We're just trying to unpack it a bit and work with World Rugby and try and address it."


Players yesterday laballed the law change as 'ridiculous' but in a statement World Rugby said the rule under was permitted under the IOC's terms of participation where no slogans, symbols or messaging is permitted.

"There has been a significant increase in strapping 'art' or 'messages' on the series in recent seasons, which is impossible to police for inappropriate or political statements by the match officials in the short period of time before entering the field in a sevens environment across multiple matches and in multiple languages," the statement said.

"While World Rugby recognises that the overwhelming majority of messages are appropriate and that this is something that players enjoy doing, there have been a small number of occasions where messages have gone un-checked and caused offence to teams, nations, commercial partners etc.

"This is a common-sense approach that has been accepted by all participating teams."

Rugby sevens made its debut at the Olympic Games in Brazil last year and will return in Tokyo in 2020.

Messages 'aren't offensive in any way, shape or form'

Nichol said the messages written by players added flavour to the game and said the Players Association will try and understand the new law before making a call on whether to fight it.

"I don't really understand the basis for it…if we've got a problem with it then put the problem on the table and see what other options there are to solve it. By and large it adds a nice flavour to the game to see people and the players in particular writing small messages that mean something to them that aren't offensive in any way, shape or form."

"We're trying to understand it first and then we'll make a call on whether we will push back on it or how we will push back on it," Nicol told the Radio Sport Breakfast.

"Off the cuff at the moment, based on what we know, we just don't think it's right and we'll look to dialogue with World Rugby and whoever else to see what we can do about it."

Nicol made the point that sport is often used a platform to promote social issues such as the recent marriage equality vote in Australia.

"It happens all the time. If someone of substance passes away, we use that platform to express the loss and to recognise the loss and show support for the family. The numerous times that sporting events are used as platforms for unity to put forward really strong points that society is getting behind and wants to support."

Players face $1,000 fine

Black Ferns player Niall Williams, the sister of All Black Sonny Bill Williams, yesterday said that players could stand to be fined $1,000 should they continue with the practice.

Niall Williams has blasted World Rugby for a proposed new ban. Photo / Photosport
Niall Williams has blasted World Rugby for a proposed new ban. Photo / Photosport

The tweet was endorsed by All Black Ardie Savea and Niall Williams' Black Ferns teammate Sarah Goss, who added: "Rugby should embrace individuality, that's why so many of us play the game".

And, in an interview with the Herald, Canadian sevens player Jen Kish called the policy "just ridiculous", adding: "they have taken away my freedom to express myself".

The 29-year-old has written 'ruck cancer' on her wrists since 2014 after USA player Jill Potter was diagnosed with cancer. Kish said she has continued to write it in support of those battling the disease.

Kish told the Herald: "World Rugby had a manager's meeting yesterday. In the meeting, they were told about this new policy ... I do believe every athlete will be forced to sign this agreement."

Political statements have long been frowned on by World Rugby and New Zealand Rugby but this is the first time the game's governing body has enforced a rule over messages altogether.

Recently All Black prop Kane Hames was given a warning by NZ Rugby after writing a message of support for Native Americans while on a New Zealand Maori tour.

All Black prop Kane Hames was given a warning for his message. Photo / Photosport
All Black prop Kane Hames was given a warning for his message. Photo / Photosport

Hames wrote "Standing Rock" on his wrist tape before a match against the USA Eagles in Chicago, a message of support for those protesting an oil pipeline through Native American land in North Dakota.

NZ Rugby also has set guidelines around what players can write on their apparel before matches – former All Black Josh Kronfeld was famously stopped from wearing an anti-nuclear sign on his headgear before a test against France in the 90s.

Many All Blacks write personal messages on their wrists, including loose forward Jerome Kaino, who always writes: "Mum" and "Dad", plus a cross and "Phil 4:13", a reference to a passage in the Bible which reads: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

Former All Black Aaron Cruden used to write a message on a wrist which highlighted his battle with testicular cancer as a 19-year-old.