The All Blacks have been handed a fixture in the United States that could make New Zealand Rugby millions. Liam Napier reports.
Providing the volatile Covid-19 landscape allows, the All Blacks will break new ground by playing in the United States capital for the first time this year as the national body seeks to boost revenue.
The Herald understands the All Blacks will play the USA in Washington DC on October 23 in a test that, depending on ticket sales, is expected to make New Zealand Rugby between $2 to $3 million.
NZ Rugby originally planned to stage a test between the All Blacks and the USA at the new 70,000-seat Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, but the October 23 date clashed with a home fixture for the Raiders NFL team.
Washington's 82,000 capacity FedEx Field – home to the NFL's Washington Football Team, formerly the Redskins - has since emerged as the new host venue.
Confirmation of the match is expected on Monday. The Herald has received an email stating Events DC will stage a press conference to announce "a major international rugby test match coming to FedEx Field this Fall 2021 featuring USA Rugby and a top team in the world."
Deputy mayor Jason Wright and Washington Football Team president John Falcicchio will be among those attending the announcement.
The Herald understands plans for the All Blacks XV - the yet-to-debut second-tier feeder team to the top side - to play the USA and two matches in France this year have been scrapped to cut costs.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Since 1906, the All Blacks have played 20 matches across the USA – from San Francisco to Berkeley, Santa Clara, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago – but never in Washington DC.
The All Blacks have played four tests against the USA, who are coached by South African Gary Gold and ranked 16th in the world, one place ahead of Uruguay.
In their last meeting seven years ago, the All Blacks routed the USA 74-6 in Chicago.
The match comes at a time when New Zealand Rugby is negotiating a $387.5 million offer from Silicon Valley-based investment firm Silver Lake for a 12.5 per cent share of commercial rights.
The USA fixture will, Covid permitting, increase the All Blacks' season to 15 tests and be the first stop en route to Europe where Ian Foster's men are scheduled to play Wales, Ireland, France and Italy.
The test against Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on October 30 is another money-making venture that sits outside the designated international window.
Given the USA's lowly ranking and the extended length of the tour, Foster is expected to use the USA test to hand his wider squad game time.