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All Black legend discusses Kiwi sporting culture

Published: 29 November 2007

New Zealand is renowned for its stunning scenery - but who and what symbolises the nation in the 21st century? Is it the ever-iconic All Blacks, or cultural icons such as Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, comeback kings Crowded House, or even new wave comedians the Conchords?

For the third high-profile event in the University of Southampton's programme of events, The 'new' New Zealand, broadcaster, author, former New Zealand MP and diplomat, and one-time captain of both the All Blacks and Oxford University, Chris Laidlaw is flying in from Auckland to debate whether sport is still central to the lives of modern day Kiwis.

The first two speakers in the programme - NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark and film critic Mark Kermode - have both suggested that success at rugby, sailing, athletics and other sports no longer symbolizes New Zealand's most high-profile peacetime achievements.

There is arguably no-one better to discuss the question than journalist and author Chris Laidlaw. Chris was previously a member of parliament in New Zealand, and as a diplomat helped orchestrate South African rugby's emergence out of the apartheid era. He is also a former captain of the All Blacks. One of his country's finest ever scrum halves, he studied in Britain as a Rhodes Scholar, and in 1969 led Oxford University to a famous victory over the Springboks.

Fresh from interviewing Tony Blair for his radio programme back home, Chris will be in discussion with a leading broadcaster in this country, John Inverdale.

Dr Adrian Smith, a senior lecturer in history at the University and organiser of the events programme, says: "As a graduate in history from this University, who takes a keen interest in sport here, John is especially welcome back in Southampton. He covers a whole range of sports for the BBC, but is most closely associated with rugby union, and so is especially well qualified to interview an All Black legend on whether sport is still central to New Zealand society. This is a rare opportunity to hear two key figures in sport, especially rugby union, discussing a highly pertinent question."

The event takes place at 6pm on Wednesday 12 December in Lecture Theatre B, at Avenue Campus, University of Southampton. The event is free and all are welcome.

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