Kiwis and All Blacks to tour UK at same time

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:09 05/09/2014
Shaun Johnson
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MATCH-WINNER: Shaun Johnson broke English hearts at Wembley last year and he’ll get the chance to do it again next season.

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The Kiwis could find themselves playing at Wembley Stadium during the middle of the Rugby World Cup.

New Zealand Rugby League announced yesterday they were no longer going ahead with their plan to host France for a three-test series next year and instead would be heading to the northern hemisphere for three tests against England.

The stadiums ae not confirmed but the NZRL's high performance manager, Tony Iro, said Wembley and Headingley are two of the likely venues, while the other fixture could be in Wigan.

The opportunity for the Kiwis to tour came because the Australian Rugby League Commission canned the proposed incoming Lions tour to give their players a break.

Iro said the NZRL jumped at the chance to play England, even though it clashed with the Rugby World Cup, which is being played in September and October.

''There is obviously another major competition up there at the same time, so the English Rugby League are working on the logistics and operation plans around that,'' Iro said.

''It's going to be a busy time, but they're confident they can make it work.

''It's a decent tie-in, there will be a number of New Zealanders up in the UK at that time, so we don't see a real issue in that regard. We'd be expecting a lot of people would want to come out and support both teams.

''We understand that the Rugby World Cup is a massive event, but also we'll be providing some action to the rugby league fans that are over there and some people like both games.''

The English RFL will cover the costs of the tour and the NZRL should make good money out of it, but the downside is that it means the Kiwis will play just one game on home soil in 2015, the Anzac test in Australia.

''The biggest thing for us, isn't the financial incentives, but more the opportunity to give our international squad some more international football,'' Iro said.

''There is a limited international programme anyway and it gives us the opportunity of at least three more top class fixtures for what is a developing bunch of New Zealand players.

''So in that regard it was quite important for us to find some more match time for those guys to establish combinations and we're hoping the players will appreciate that opportunity and also to play against a pretty decent England side.''

Although France will no longer be coming to New Zealand, Iro said they hoped to be able to squeeze in a test against France on the trip.

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''That's definitely something we're looking at,'' he said.

''Obviously, with the French having planned on coming down here, we'll try to fit that into the schedule somewhere and we're hoping they'll be receptive for that.

''I'm sure they will be, they're obviously looking for more international fixtures as well. So we'll be very keen to accommodate them in some capacity."

- Stuff

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