A waterfront stadium will change the sporting landscape in this country – and most would say for the better – but New Zealand Rugby face a balancing act as far as the All Blacks are concerned.

The number the bean counters within the organisation will be particularly happy about is 65,000 – the stadium's capacity for big events, and none come bigger here than All Blacks tests, especially against top-tier nations such as South Africa and Australia or touring teams such as the British and Irish Lions.

Eden Park has a capacity of 50,000, although it can be increased for large events such as World Cup finals. A crowd of 61,000 (many suffering in silence) watched the All Blacks beat France in the final of 2011.

New Zealand Rugby needs more revenue. That much was made abundantly clear recently by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who has opined that the government should sponsor the team as wide-ranging and successful ambassadors for the country.


More bums on more seats means more dollars and the backers of the Auckland stadium will want to see as many tests played there as possible in order to make it viable.

And yet, if such a venue is built – and given how the Super City politicians seem to find it difficult to agree on anything, it must be said it will be against the odds – New Zealand Rugby can't sacrifice it all on the altar of the dollar at the expense of the other rugby venues around the country.

The Lions played two tests at Eden Park last year – a possible sign for the future – but while it might make financial and logistical sense to hold the majority of tests in a new stadium in Auckland, other cities will, rightly, have something to say about it.

One of the foundations of New Zealand's success as a rugby nation is the fact the All Blacks regularly play tests between Dunedin and North Harbour. Nelson's Trafalgar Park hosted the All Blacks Rugby Championship test against Argentina in August and the city got behind it for the whole week.

Eden Park calls itself the "national stadium", but it's not really, and there is a cautionary tale to be considered in England and the Rugby Football Union's relationship with Twickenham.

Next year England will play Italy at St James' Park in Newcastle as part of their four warm-up matches for the Rugby World Cup.

That is considered extremely newsworthy because the last time England hosted a high-profile test away from Twickenham was against the All Blacks at Old Trafford in 1997 when Twickenham was being redeveloped.

The atmosphere at the home of Manchester United was said to be electric, helped probably, by England hooker Richard Cockerill's eyeballing of opposite Norm Hewitt during the haka. The All Blacks won 25-8.

The last time England played away from Twickenham was their final pool game at the 2015 World Cup when they played Uruguay at Manchester City's stadium, a match significant only for the fact that the host nation had already failed to qualify for the knockout phases. There is little doubt the north of England is missing out in terms of rugby.

Waikato Stadium in Hamilton holds about 25,000 when full and can provide a rousing atmosphere at a football-specific ground. The same goes for Dunedin's covered Forsyth Barr Stadium, which has a capacity of about 30,000. Both will obviously have expectations of hosting big tests well into the future, as will Wellington's Westpac Stadium (35,000 capacity).

Which brings us to Christchurch, a city which missed out on the 2011 World Cup due to the earthquakes and which has hosted only four tests since at its temporary stadium in Addington (capacity a mere 18,000): Ireland in 2012, France in 2013, Argentina in 2015, and South Africa in 2016.

The home of the defending champion Crusaders and a breeding ground for so many All Blacks over the years will hopefully start work on a new, covered central city stadium (capacity about 30,000), in 2022.

There must be a commitment to play big tests in Christchurch again, otherwise the whole thing's a waste of time and money.

Rugby can't take its popularity in New Zealand for granted. There are big decisions ahead.