Head coach Ian Foster has revealed multiple teams turned down invitations to take on the All Blacks.
The All Blacks have not been able to play a test this season, with their clashes against Wales and Scotland, scheduled for July, postponed indefinitely due to Covid-19, while the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship have been delayed until at least October.
The All Blacks’ first match of the year, against a Moana Pacific side at Mt Smart Stadium on October 3, is expected to be confirmed next week, but Foster divulged they had hoped to schedule an official test in the window between the end of Super Rugby Aotearoa and the start of the Mitre 10 Cup – only for nations to turn down their approaches.
“We had a window of time between Super Rugby Aotearoa and Mitre 10 Cup. Normally we would try and play a test match – potentially against a Tier 2 country. There was no Tier 2 country that wanted to play us,” Foster told Martin Devlin on Newstalk ZB.
“We put an invite out to a few but clearly a lot of countries aren’t in a situation or prepared to come over here and play at the moment, and we fully understand that.”
With no nation putting their hand up to take on the All Blacks, New Zealand Rugby pivoted to scheduling a North v South clash, which yesterday was postponed by a week until September 5.
Foster says the match – which NZ Rugby are hoping can be played in front of a crowd to bring in $1 million in revenue – isn’t vital for the All Blacks, but is important from an economic perspective.
“We lost three test matches, with that we lose a lot of revenue that helps fuel the game.”
Wellington is in the box seat to host the match after the Government denied exemptions for Auckland-based players and staff to travel next week, due to Auckland’s Level 3 lockdown after a community outbreak of Covid-19. If the Government announce an impending reduction to Level 2 in their update on Monday, the players would be able to gather in Wellington to train.
However, with Auckland seemingly unlikely to jump from alert Level 3 to 1 next week, Wellington – which is currently at Level 2 but could move to Level 1 – appears a more realistic option of hosting the match with fans permitted to attend.
Foster said he wouldn’t want the game to go ahead if the 14 Auckland-based players and staff cannot be involved, but said that the match could be played without fans if that was deemed necessary.
“It can, and I’m sure we probably will try to make it go ahead without fans [if needed].
“The fact that they’ve filled up stadiums has created an awesome environment for players to play in and I know it will be a very different spectacle if we can’t have the fans there, so here’s hoping.”
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