Blackadder backs games against touring teams

Last updated 05:00 19/06/2014
Chris Pennell
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ROUNDING IT OFF: Chris Pennell of England dives over for a try during the match between the Crusaders and England at the AMI Stadium.

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Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder wants more midweek matches against test rugby nations.

The full-house sign was up at AMI Stadium on Tuesday night as the seven-time Super rugby champions lost 38-7 to England in Christchurch in their first outing against an international team.

Blackadder, who captained the All Blacks midweek team on the 1996 tour of South Africa, said the concept of games against provinces or franchises was "fantastic" and he congratulated "whoever organised this".

"It's a great opportunity for England and for us. I know what it's like to be a midweek All Black. For those guys [in the England team on Tuesday night], they probably haven't had a lot of opportunities and this was their opportunity to have a hit-out, as well.

"I think it's a win-win. It's great that England were here in Christchurch and great that their focus was around the earthquake. We certainly missed them here at the World Cup."

Blackadder said the Crusaders "would never turn down the opportunity" to play another international team. "It's certainly good for the touring team and it's also really good for teams like the Crusaders and the Blues, last year when they played France.

"It's a wonderful occasion. You should never underestimate how much of an impact it will have on young men and their future careers."

Blackadder fielded three players - locks Scott Barrett, Joel Everson and prop Siate Tokolahi - making their debuts for the Crusaders. "Three of them in the first game were playing England. It's something they will cherish for the rest of the careers and they'll go on, one day, hopefully to become All Blacks. They may get an opportunity to play a club team, as well, and they'll know what it's like. These are lifelong memories."

Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach supported Blackadder's view that more midweek matches would be worthwhile additions to touring teams' schedules.

"We would like to see more of them. I think it was a really exciting development when the French played the Blues last year."

The match was sold out with 17,300 fans present and the Crusaders made an estimated $25,000 profit.

"It was wonderful, special - the result aside," Riach said. "There was an immense amount of goodwill from the RFU [England's Rugby Football Union] and the England team.

"We received an overwhelming number of comments about what that game meant to the city. We had some dignitaries with us who were delighted Christchurch was able to host and enjoy it as an historic event.

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The England team took to the field sporting the Canterbury Rugby Earthquake Relief Trust logo and a memorial match greeting on their playing uniform. Ten signed commemorative England jerseys were donated to the Crusaders for auction to boost the trust's funds.

England captain Ed Slater was later presented with a Crusaders ceremonial sword and exchanged commemorative jerseys with acting Crusaders captain George Whitelock.

English Rugby Football Union chairman Bill Beaumont told the crowd it was "a great honour and privilege to be the first international team to play the Crusaders".

He said England were disappointed not to get to play in Christchurch during the World Cup and wanted to salute "the strength and fortitude" shown by Christchurch people "in the face of adversity".

- The Press

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