Reports emerged on Thursday stating the All Blacks and Mal Meninga’s Australian rugby league team would meet in a hybrid international following “top-secret negotiations” between New Zealand Rugby and the Australian Rugby League.
NZ Rugby boss Mark Robinson confirmed the All Blacks are in talks to play in the potentially lucrative cross-code clash later this year.
However, the Sydney Morning Herald reports the concept “could already be dead in the water” even before either party have even gotten close to signing a deal.
One of the reasons is reportedly due to the public airing of the proposal before a final deal had been signed, which raises concerns about the potential backlash from the New Zealand public over the concept as well as NZ Rugby’s reaction given its protectiveness of the All Blacks’ brand.
The Sydney Morning Herald also reports the Australian side of the ledger were not happy with the proposal being made public before any concrete deal was signed.
NRL clubs were reportedly blindsided by the news of the potential clash being organised for December 5, which would cause issues for Kangaroos players who would, under annual leave entitlements, not return to pre-season training until January 30.
The report suggested the forecasted turnover for the All Blacks-Kangaroos clash could be over $15 million, a crucial source of profit during the uncertain economic times due to the pandemic.
But NZ Rugby has insisted that its rugby calendar will take priority before any plans for a hybrid clash against the Kangaroos.
As it stands, the All Blacks are scheduled to play the Wallabies in a four-match Bledisloe Cup series, with the first test pencilled in for October 10 and likely to be staged in Wellington, but this situation remains fluid while borders remain closed.
“The concept of the All Blacks playing the Kangaroos later in the year, we must be very clear that our priority is we want the All Blacks to play international rugby for the remainder of the year and we’ve talked about the uncertainty associated with that,” Robinson said.
“But absolutely we’ve had the option put to us of this hybrid game with the Kangaroos. It’s one of many different scenarios in a unique year like this that we’re considering, looking to be innovative and having a focus on trying to consider revenue-generating ideas at this time given then financial climate we’re in.”
Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan brushed off talks about the All Blacks taking on the “other” Aussie team.
Super Rugby Crowds have changed dramatically in New Zealand since the restart of rugby in the country.https://t.co/ONI028Ag8O
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 25, 2020
“I’m not going to lose sleep over it,” McLennan told the Sydney Morning Herald. “If it happens it happens. We have bigger fish to fry.”
New Zealand Rugby League boss Greg Peters, who is sceptical about the cross-code concept, says the Kangaroos should be playing the Kiwis not the All Blacks.
“If the Kangaroos play anybody, we want them to play the Kiwis, which has always been an annual event,” Peters told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Given the [COVID] challenges this season has already presented and the late finish to the NRL competition, we didn’t think any tests against the Kangaroos would be possible.
“I’ve heard the [hybrid] concept pitched before and it’s never got up. It would take a lot of work to get off the ground.”
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