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'Not fit for purpose': NZ Rugby blasted for schedule clash

By Sam Smith
Sam Whitelock. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

This weekend, the All Blacks will get their season back underway with a match against Japan in Tokyo.

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It’s been somewhat of a lengthy wait for the team’s fans, with the NZ national side last taking the field more than a month ago. Thankfully, however, there’s been plenty of rugby on the agenda in the meantime, with the women’s Rugby World Cup in full swing in Aotearoa and now entering the knockout stages of the competition.

So while the All Blacks are back on the menu this weekend, the Black Ferns will also be tackling Wales in their World Cup quarter-final and unfortunately for supporters of both the men’s and women’s games, the powers that be have seen fit to schedule the two matches to take place at roughly the same time.

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Saturday’s match-up between the All Blacks and the Brave Blossoms will kick off at 6:50pm NZT. The Black Ferns’ quarter-final in Whangarei, meanwhile, will get started 40 minutes later.

For the entirety of the second half of NZ’s clash with Japan, the vast majority of fans will have to choose between watching the men or the women.

This has unsurprisingly caused much consternation from the public with Spark Sport commentator Scotty ‘Sumo’ Stevenson ripping into New Zealand Rugby on social media.

“On August 12 this year, this schedule was released by NZR,” Stevenson said on Instagram, referring to the All Blacks’ end-of-year tour.

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“Between then and now, NZR has decided that they are happy that the kick off between the All Blacks and Japan directly clashes with the Black Ferns RWC Quarterfinal. That organisation has known for more than a year that this was the quarterfinal slot for its team.

“How an organisation can do this intentionally, when it undermines its own team, when it disadvantages its own fans, and when it only serves to illustrate its own hollow rhetoric when it comes to its support of the women in the game no longer surprises. It only serves to reinforce the belief that those in decision making roles are just not fit for purpose.”

While scheduling is not entirely up to NZR, many have taken to social media to criticise the organisation – or whoever has made the call to run both games concurrently – and lament the fact that the burgeoning women’s game could potentially be overshadowed at a crucial stage in the World Cup.

This weekend won’t mark the only schedule clash between two high-profile New Zealand teams this year, with the All Blacks due to play Scotland on November 13 at 4pm BST – the same time that the new All Blacks XV are set to take on the Barbarians.

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