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All Blacks eye up matches in San Francisco

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 28/07/2013
Victor Vito
PITCH BLACK: Victor Vito takes his turn at batting.

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The New Zealand Rugby Union is exploring opportunities for All Blacks games in the United States.

The Sunday News understands Nigel Cass, a member of the NZRU's senior management team and general manager of strategic relationships and planning, has been in talks over the potential use of AT&T Park - the picturesque waterfront home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team and the reigning Major League Baseball champions.

The NZRU said no one was available for interview on the subject, but confirmed Cass was in San Francisco during the past few days with current All Blacks Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Victor Vito and Aaron Smith.

One of the specific practicalities believed to have been discussed by Cass is that the playing surface at AT&T Park, a 42,000-seat stadium which is also used for other sports and music events, would be a few metres smaller than a standard rugby field - though this could be easily solved with a simple agreement of understanding being struck between the teams involved.

With overseas trips to Japan, France, England and Ireland already locked into the All Blacks' international diary for November this year, there could also be an option for an American stopover, for what would probably be a more youthful and less experienced All Blacks lineup rather than the test regulars.

Alternatively, the Californian venue could be being lined up for New Zealand Maori, who have two overseas matches against Canada and the United States also booked for November.

Games in North America could also be beneficial for the sponsor-conscious NZRU, particularly considering the organisation's lucrative new shirt sponsor AIG - in the insurance and financial service company's home country.

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