NZRU to focus on Auckland development
The New Zealand Rugby Union is putting special emphasis on making gains in Auckland over the next three years, hoping to realise the potential of the country's largest city.
That includes targeting the rapidly growing Asian community to get involved in the sport while aiming to maximise the enormous talents of Auckland's Polynesian population.
The NZRU released a "Towards 2016" paper in Auckland today, outlining their goals through to the next Olympics in Rio.
They listed their six main goals as:
1 All Blacks go back to back at Rugby World Cups in 2015.
2 Two Olympic gold medals in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
3 Rugby in New Zealand is financially healthy and well led.
4 Rugby is the sport of choice in wider Auckland.
5 Rugby brings communities together and is the sport of choice for teenagers.
6 New Zealand rugby has a positive global presence.
Most are stating the obvious but the extra attention on Auckland reflects a degree of under-achieving in the dynamic area, both on and off the field.
The NZRU have established an office in the city to help realise the commercial opportunities.
Now they want to try to get things happening at ground level.
"We identified that Auckland is unique and special," NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said, adding there were many challenges.
The attractive Asian and Polynesian elements of the area's population meant "a one size fits all policy won't work," Tew said.
But he emphasised the development programme for Auckland wouldn't come "at the expense of rugby in the rest of the country".
North Harbour have long struggled for results, Auckland have finally shown signs of a resurgence at NPC level while Counties-Manuaku have only just lifted themselves out of the second tier at that level.
The Blues' problems at Super Rugby level since 2003 have been well documented.
Tew said discussions were already under way with the three unions to look at getting the best out of the game there, including schools rugby, the women's game and how the Asian market could be tapped.
Broad details of their plan for Auckland stressed the city needed to have first class facilities; be financially strong; have increased participation of players, coaches and referees to similar levels of other provinces; and have representative teams that are winning competitions.