Twickenham to host Bledisloe Cup clash?
September 9, 2010
Could the year's final Bledisloe Cup clash be switched to Twickenham? © Getty Images
The final Bledisloe Cup clash of the year between the Wallabies and the All Blacks could be switched to Twickenham according to the New Zealand Rugby Union.
The match is scheduled to take place at Hong Kong's International Stadium on October 30 but concerns over poor ticket sales - less than a quarter of the 40,000 tickets on offer have reportedly been sold - have prompted the NZRU to look at other options.
Jock Hobbs, the NZRU chairman who is currently stood down from the role as he undergoes chemotherapy treatment on leukaemia, has revealed that discussions with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) have begun over the logistics of playing the Test at Twickenham.
"It is a possibility. Contact's already been made in that respect," Hobbs told Radio Sport. "We need to be careful though. People have already made some commitment to the game in Hong Kong so it's not straightforward given the time we have until that match."
A decision could be made as early as the end of this week, with Hobbs especially wary of the negative image cast on rugby if one of it's premium international matches was played in front of a sparse crowd. "It's a concern both from a branding point of view and a revenue point of view," Hobbs said.
RFU business operations manager Paul Vaughan said hosting the test at Twickenham would be a "privilege".
"Clearly the game is a major event in the annual rugby calendar and it would be a privilege to host it in England so we would be open to listening to approaches from the organisers," he said. "However we would also have to consider the impact it would have on our own rugby programme for the autumn and of course our local community, sponsors and other stakeholders. Until we have had any substantive dialogue it would not be right to comment further."
Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill said there were no plans to cancel the Test. "We will be having some deep and meaningful conversations with the Hong Kong Rugby Union in the next 48 hours," O'Neill told reporters in Australia. "There are no plans to cancel the match. We have to find ways and means of getting ticket sales back to what they should be."
The ARU chief said arrangements around next month's Test were different from what they were when the last Bledisloe Cup clash was staged in Hong Kong two years ago.
"We have left a lot of the organisation to the HKRU for which they are getting paid a fee," he said. "It's fair to say we need to be more hands-on and work very hard to make sure that it is a success, but we can't gild the lily, ticket sales are off the pace with a couple of months to go. We'll do whatever we have to do to make sure it works."
The Wallabies and the All Blacks have played each other in Hong Kong and Tokyo over the last two years to generate income and try to develop rugby in Asia.
O'Neill said that Hong Kong would mark the last time the Wallabies and the All Blacks played four Bledisloe Cup Tests in the one year and they were not looking to take any future Tests offshore.
"Regardless of the challenges we have had in Hong Kong this year, the days of four Bledisloes are over," he said.