Hong Kong to host Bledisloe Cup test

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The All Blacks and Australia are to battle for the Bledisloe Cup in Hong Kong in what is a dramatic move for international rugby.

It is the first time the two teams have played each other outside of either Australia or New Zealand except for at Rugby World Cup.

It is also the first time the trophy has been up for grabs outside Australasia.

NZRU CEO Steve Tew said: "The match will make history and help promote rugby in a part of the world where it is developing quickly.

"We know both the All Blacks and the Wallabies have many fans in Asia and it is fantastic to be able to bring the game to them and to local rugby enthusiasts."

The match will be played on Saturday, November 1, kicking off at 4.30pm HKT (9.30pm NZT).

With the addition of the Hong Kong match, the Bledisloe Cup - which dates back to 1931 - will be decided over four Tests in 2008.

Other Bledisloe Cup matches scheduled for 2008 are also part of the Tri-Nations tournament on July 26 in Sydney, August 2 in Auckland and September 13 in Brisbane.

The test was confirmed after Tew and Australian Rugby Union (ARU) chief executive John O'Neill met local officials in Hong Kong, which has successfully hosted its annual sevens tournament for more than two decades.

It was first mooted by the Hong Kong Rugby Union midway through last year and officially approved by the International Rugby Board in January.

The local union also hope to stage a curtainraiser between Hong Kong and China.

The test will be played before both teams travel to Europe for their end-of-year tours, where the All Blacks will attempt to repeat their 2005 Grand Slam success.

"Australia and New Zealand are great sporting rivals and the Bledisloe Cup is always fiercely contested," said ARU Chief Executive and Managing Director John O'Neill.

"November's match will be no different. It promises to be a full-blooded encounter between two of the sport's heavyweights. This is not an exhibition game."

The Hong Kong Rugby Union will host the match and will use the occasion to promote rugby with youth and club tournaments in the week leading up to the match and potentially a curtain raiser between Hong Kong and China on the day of the match.

"Hong Kong's status as a rugby destination continues to grow," said HKRFU Executive Director Allan Payne.

"Teams and fans always enjoy the Sevens, but international 15-a-side rugby is another remarkable and distinct rugby experience. With millions watching on television around the world this is rugby at its best and a real showcase for Hong Kong."

- NZ HERALD STAFF

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