New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has today announced that a new high performance team will assemble this year and undertake a mini tour of Northern Hemisphere venues.
The team, named the All Blacks XV, will play three matches in the last weekend of October and first two weekends of November.
NZR chief rugby officer Nigel Cass said the team will provide a new national team aspiration for current professional players, and a career step towards the All Blacks for many.
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It follows in the footsteps of similar teams which have assembled throughout New Zealand recent rugby’s history, including the Junior All Blacks, New Zealand A and Emerging Players.
“The All Blacks XV will be our second-tier team below the All Blacks and made up New Zealand’s ‘next best’ players,” Cass said.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for those players to experience a national team environment and prove themselves on the international stage, or for those who have already worn the All Blacks jersey to get more game time at this level and potentially earn a recall to the team.
“The high-performance benefits of this team will be significant. It will help to develop the next group of players, many of whom will likely become our future All Blacks, as well as give further opportunities for our coaches and other team personnel.
“We also believe that this will aid with retention of players and personnel in New Zealand, which will benefit our Super Rugby clubs and provincial unions as well as the All Blacks.”
Cass said that, while the concept of a second-tier national team was not new in New Zealand, the intention was for the All Blacks XV to become a regular national team playing second-tier overseas opposition.
“Teams such as the New Zealand A team and the Junior All Blacks who last played in the Pacific Nations Cup in 2009 have filled a similar high-performance role and have done so effectively, with a very high percentage going on to play for the All Blacks.
“These teams have been sporadic in the past, and we believe that there is great value in making this a regular national team going forward.
“Beyond its high-performance role, this new team also has real commercial value for NZR. It will play offshore in growing rugby markets that are of strategic and commercial importance, allowing us to showcase and grow New Zealand’s brand of rugby in many more parts of the world.”
New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association chief executive Rob Nichol said the team was a positive move for players.
“Players are excited about the prospects of this team. If they don’t quite make the All Blacks touring squad, being able to push their case through Super Rugby and Mitre 10 Cup for selection to the All Blacks XV will be a strong motivator for many,” he said.
“It will provide an opportunity for quality players to tour and represent their country against some tough international opposition, to play alongside players and work with coaches they respect and a platform to continue that push for higher honours.
“When you contemplate what this team will look like and the type of rugby it will be capable of, it’s quite intriguing.”
NZR has formed an exclusive partnership with sports promotion company Left Field Live (LFL) to arrange, promote and deliver the All Blacks XV matches in 2020 and 2021.
“We have previously worked with the team at LFL on international games including the two All Blacks matches in Chicago and the UK Barbarians match in 2017,” Cass said.
“We know that they bring great events experience and promotional skills to the table, so we have great confidence in what they will deliver for this team.”
Details of the first of the All Blacks XV match will be announced by LFL at an event in North America this afternoon.
It is expected that the announcement in North America will be confirmation of the All Blacks XV’s clash with Fiji in Canada in October, a fixture which was announced but went largely unheralded by the Fijian Rugby Union in late December.
Details of the two other 2020 All Blacks XV matches will be announced in due course.
– With New Zealand Rugby
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