REPORT: All Blacks could face surprise opponent in October
NEWS: The All Blacks could reportedly square off against a surprise opponent in one of two additional Tests to the three matches already pencilled in for their end-of-year tour.
According to the New Zealand Herald, money-spinning Tests against Wales and the United States are being planned by New Zealand Rugby [NZR] to take place in October.
NZR are reportedly looking to face off against the USA Eagles in a surprise clash at a yet-to-be-determined venue on October 23.
However, the Herald states the new 70 000-seat Allegiant Stadium, the home ground of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, has been presented to the NZR board as a possible venue.
Confirmation of the stadium’s use, though, would be dependant on the 2021 NFL schedule, which will be released in May.
The Herald reports that the All Blacks XV team, which was announced last March as a feeder side to the top-tier national team, could be used to face the USA Eagles after COVID-19 prevented the side from debuting last year.
The All Blacks still remain an option to face the USA Eagles, though, in what would be the two side’s first meeting since the New Zealanders thumped the Americans 74-6 at a sold-out Soldier Field in Chicago seven years ago.
A clash against Wales, meanwhile, is understood to be held at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium a week later on October 30.
Under the guidance of Kiwi coach Wayne Pivac, Wales overcame a disastrous 2020 campaign, where they lost seven of their 10 matches, to become Six Nations champions last month.
The last time the two nations played each other was at the 2019 World Cup, where the All Blacks beat the Welsh 40-17 in the bronze final.
Wales, along with Scotland, were scheduled to travel to New Zealand to face the All Blacks in last July’s Test window, but those plans were scuppered by the global pandemic.
The two matches against the USA and Wales, which sit outside World Rugby’s designated Test windows, would add an extra NZ$2-3 million per Test to NZR’s coffers via broadcast, ticket sales, and sponsorship revenue.
The fixtures would also bring the total number of matches on the All Blacks’ end-of-year tour to five, as Ian Foster’s squad are already scheduled to face France, Italy and Ireland.
The Herald also reports that NZR are eyeing up a two-Test series against Fiji and a one-off North vs South clash as an alternative option should Italy be unable to travel to New Zealand to face the All Blacks in their two-match Test series in July.
Fiji are already scheduled to face the All Blacks once in July, but could be called upon to fill the void if the global pandemic prevents the Italians from making the trip in three months’ time.
New Zealand Herald and @RugbyPass (Sam Smith)