The All Blacks will join forces with other international rugby teams this weekend in wearing rainbow coloured laces in Rome as a public declaration of support for the LGBT community.

Former Welsh captain Gareth Thomas was the victim of a homophobic attack last weekend in Cardiff, prompting the national rugby teams in France, Wales and England to don the rainbow coloured laces.

Thomas, who played 103 tests for Wales and the British and Irish Lions prior to announcing he was gay in 2009, appeared with facial bruises in a video posted on Twitter earlier this week, saying he was targeted because of his sexuality in the attack.

After the team's captain's run at Stadio Olimpico, captain Kieran Read declared the All Blacks would also get behind the cause.


"Hopefully most of the lads will be wearing the rainbow laces," Read said. "It's a show of solidarity within world rugby and from us here as New Zealanders and All Blacks to show support for that community."

All Blacks and Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara has previously worn rainbow laces after declaring his public support for equality, saying in a series of tweets earlier this year he was "100 per cent against comments" made by Wallabies fullback Israel Folau, who sparked an outcry at his statement that all gay people were destined for hell.

The Rainbow Laces campaign began in 2013, when gay rights group Stonewall invited footballers in England and Scotland to wear them.

The All Blacks will wear rainbow coloured laces against Italy. Photo / Getty Images.
The All Blacks will wear rainbow coloured laces against Italy. Photo / Getty Images.

Read, who may also lead the haka this weekend, also revealed the All Blacks had watched footage of New Zealand's 'Golden Hour' at the Olympic Games, held at Stadio Olimpico, where Sir Peter Snell and Sir Murray Halberg clinched memorable gold medals in 1960.

Snell won gold in the 800m with a brilliant late surge. Then, minutes later, with Snell watching trackside, Halberg stormed to victory in the 5000m.

Standing not far from that iconic finish line, with the track now winding round the outside of the rugby pitch, Read said the All Blacks would draw inspiration from what is widely recognised as New Zealand's finest Olympic moment.

"It was one of our greatest hours in the Olympics so it's pretty cool be standing so close to where it all happened. It's very motivating for the lads."

Read has his own fond memories of this venue. Six years ago, he led the All Blacks to a 42-10 victory in the first of his 42 tests as national captain. And while he's endured much criticism after last week's loss to Ireland in Dublin, he appears driven to finish this season strongly.

Kieran Read talks with head coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty Images.
Kieran Read talks with head coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty Images.

"For me you learn every day, every game, every year. I'm still doing that and hopefully I continue to do so. Our squad is in a great spot. We'll take the losses on the chin. It's something to really motivate us this week and I'm sure it will continue to do so.

"It's nice to be on the other side of the world, you keep your head down and don't have to worry about too many things. It's obviously tough coming off a loss but the guys are excited about the challenge we've got ahead."