Our series this week on the diversity of today's New Zealand contained an interesting comment from sociologist Professor Paul Spoonley on our national identity.

"We will always see the All Blacks as a key part of who we are," he said, "but our connections with Asia as a result of migration, and what that means for daily practices or national identity, will change."

The fear of that change underlies all immigration debates. How much will it change the nation that represents who we are? Not very much, Professor Spoonley's answer suggests.

He uses the All Blacks as an example of the sort of powerful focus of national identity that tends to be quickly embraced by immigrant groups.

All Blacks supporters from all around the world say why they are behind the 'Men in Black' and how they love what the All Blacks do and represent.

It might be a pleasant surprise for "died in the wool" rugby fans to attend a gathering of, say, Chinese immigrant families this weekend. Chances are, a child or two will be wearing an All Black jersey and the Rugby World Cup will be mentioned in the adults' conversation.

Immigrants come to a country because they like it. And while they never lose their indigenous national identity - and find room here to retain it - they readily embrace many elements of their new identity.

That is particularly true of children. Youngsters in migrant families will grow up to be as Kiwi in outlook, accent and interests as their peers, while also sharing the culture, language and dual identity of their parents.

The All Blacks may just be the most obvious element of our national identity, but we should never take their contribution for granted. The performance they produced in the Rugby World Cup quarter final against France last weekend was a feat of exceptional character.

All Black stars Dan Carter and Julian Sevea are not believing the Springbok hype nor the French media talking up the thrashing of France, they are firmly focused on the semi-final and winning.

Some people were nervous - as no doubt were they - at the prospect of facing their nemesis at the same stage and at the same place as eight years ago. This time they went up a gear, took control and swept their opponents off the park.

It was a revelation to the rest of the teams, even others from "this" part of the world, in what eventually became a clean sweep of the quarter finals by nations of the Southern Hemisphere.

If there was any dispute that the annual four-nation Rugby Championship deserves that title, it was dispelled last weekend. Australia's match with Scotland was decided on a referee error, but the Wallabies were probably the better team.

Australia's near-defeat was a reminder that anything can happen in sport, and that, with so much national pride and identity riding on a rugby team, we are going to be devastated at times.


It could happen this weekend (but it probably won't!). The All Blacks' semi-final defeat of Australia in the last World Cup was as fine a display as last weekend's, and we all know what nearly happened a week later.

If immigrants have embraced the All Blacks, it is probably not to the degree that failure at the World Cup would be felt as a national calamity. Diversity broadens the mind. And that is a good thing. Go the All Blacks.