Super Rugby: New Zealand Govt backs Crusaders name-change talks

Minister for Sport and Recreaction Grant Robertson has welcomed discussions to change the name of the Super Rugby champion Crusaders team after the Christchurch massacre.

Robertson says he supports the initiative of Crusaders bosses to scrutinise the suitability of their title and imagery, following last Friday's terror act, in which 50 people were killed at two mosques by an Australian gunman.

Critics have raised concern over the use of a name they say is offensive to the Muslim faith.

The Crusades was the name originally given to a series of conflicts between Christian soldiers (Crusaders) and Muslims in the Mediterranean region, beginning in the 11th century.

The Crusaders issued a statement, saying the name was meant to reflect "the crusading spirit of this community", but understood the concerns raised and would consult widely.

Robertson praised the club for their front-foot approach.

"I'm aware of the conversations that they're now having with, in particular, the Muslim community in Christchurch," he said. "I think that's appropriate.

"Clearly, this is a big issue in Canterbury. The Crusaders is a well-established name and brand, but I think it's a responsible action to undertake those conversations now."

Original Crusaders chairman Donald Stewart revealed to Stuff that he had reservations about the name when the Super 12 was launched in 1996.

Stewart said the name was given to them by New Zealand Rugby, which had full control of the process.

"I had doubts on the basis that we were trying to project ourselves globally with an international competition," said Stewart, who is now based in Sydney.

"And I wondered whether this name might prove offensive to some potential viewers. I probably didn't share that opinion widely."

The Crusaders are the world's most successful professional club rugby team, snaring nine Super Rugby titles, including the last two.

They have housed some of the world's finest players, including All Blacks Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.