Rugby: All Blacks set to make millions with surprise test proposal for end-of-year tour

EXCLUSIVE

While New Zealand Rugby remains locked in negotiations over a $465 million private equity offer, the organisation could pocket millions from facing two surprising opponents later this year. Liam Napier reports.

The All Blacks could play two additional money-spinning tests this year in Wales and the United States, the Weekend Herald can reveal.

Proposals for the All Blacks to play Six Nations champions Wales on October 30 at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium and the USA on October 23, potentially at the new 70,000-seat Allegiant Stadium which opened last year for the Las Vegas Raiders NFL team, have been presented to the New Zealand Rugby board.

The Weekend Herald understands the test against Wales is close to being finalised while the game against the USA is waiting on the NFL schedule release in May to determine ground availability.

Historically, tests that sit outside designated windows have netted New Zealand Rugby between $2 million and $3 million from broadcast, ticket sales, and sponsorship revenue.

The test against Wales will add to an already challenging end-of-year tour for All Blacks coach Ian Foster that includes France in Paris, Italy in Rome, and Ireland in Dublin.

The Weekend Herald understands the proposed October date in the USA will either be filled by the All Blacks or the yet-to-debut All Blacks XV team.

Despite continued Covid-19 uncertainty, the Nevada government has announced plans to open back up to 100 per cent capacity from June 1, but the game could be held elsewhere if the Allegiant Stadium is unavailable on October 23.

The previously-touted prospect of the All Blacks playing Japan in Tokyo on the same date also remains an option, albeit less likely now.

The All Blacks last played the USA in Chicago in 2014, routing the locals 74-6.
New Zealand Rugby is negotiating a $465 million offer from Silicon Valley-based investment firm Silver Lake for 15 per cent of commercial rights, so a potential match in the States should not surprise.

The All Blacks XV were announced in March last year as effectively the new Junior All Blacks or New Zealand A side as a feeder to the top-tier national team. They were due to play three matches late last year, until Covid-19 curtailed those plans.

It is understood the All Blacks XV will also play two matches in France later this year.

Wales were scheduled to play three tests in New Zealand last July before the global pandemic scrapped all inbound tours.

After succeeding Warren Gatland and enduring a difficult debut test season last year, when he presided over six straight losses, former Auckland coach Wayne Pivac led Wales to this year’s Six Nations title where they narrowly missed capturing the Grand Slam with a last-gasp defeat to France.

How much NZ Rugby may pocket from the October 30 test against Wales will depend on crowd capacity under potential Covid-19 restrictions in the UK.

The All Blacks last played Wales in the World Cup playoff for third in Tokyo in 2019, winning 40-17.

At this point, the All Blacks will have to quarantine for two weeks on return to New Zealand and it is understood leading players are only prepared to do that once this year.

Uncertainty prevails around the remainder of the All Blacks schedule this year, with two home tests against Italy in July still in serious doubt.

The All Blacks are due to host Italy and Vern Cotter’s Fiji (one test) in July but if the Italians don’t make the trip, NZ Rugby may opt to double the tests against Fiji and possibly fall back on another North versus South fixture to fill the void.

The Weekend Herald understands two Rugby Championship proposals are on the table to follow.

One involves the Springboks hosting Argentina in mid-August, with the All Blacks and Wallabies squaring off at the same time.

The Springboks and Pumas would then travel to Australia and undergo two weeks quarantine, with the four nations playing off in a tournament potentially co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia that would finish around October 2.

If South Africa are unable to host Argentina in August, the Rugby Championship would start later and could run through to October 9 which will create major problems for the Springboks and Pumas accessing their European-based players outside the test window.

Despite these many moving parts, after being restricted to six tests against the Wallabies and Pumas during last year’s Covid-19 affected season, the All Blacks could now play as many as 15 matches in 2021.

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