Crusaders eye international fixture vs England

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:02 22/06/2013

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The Crusaders have expressed an interest in playing against England next year.

Following the relatively successful match between the Blues and France last week, Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach stated the franchise would welcome the chance to play England in Christchurch when they tour New Zealand next June.

"We would be tremendously excited by that opportunity," Riach acknowledged. "We enjoyed watching the Blues play France match and would look forward to having the same chance against an international opponent."

Although Riach would not comment on whether the Crusaders had yet to formally approach the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) the franchise may have to negotiate several hurdles to make the match a reality.

The Crusaders are unlikely to be the only Super Rugby outfit to lobby the NZRU and those discussions would have to involve England who would be required to bring out a larger squad.

Playing the Blues proved to be a relatively painless exercise for France.

Having based themselves in Auckland for their three-test series against the All Blacks the tourists, whose tests were scheduled for Auckland, Christchurch and New Plymouth, only had to drive across the harbour bridge before beating their opponents 38-15 on the North Shore.

If a match between England and the Crusaders was allocated to Christchurch there appears to be little chance of the city also hosting a test next year. The NZRU have yet to confirm where England would play the All Blacks.

This could lead to some delicate negotiations in the knowledge that the 2015 domestic test programme will be reduced because of the World Cup.

The Canterbury Rugby Football Union and the Crusaders will be keen to also be awarded a test in 2015.

Hosting England has the potential to earn the Crusaders some extra revenue and promote their brand to the United Kingdom market via television footage and the ensuing media coverage.

Around 10,000 fans attended the Blues-France game.

This was despite not having their All Blacks, who were in camp in Christchurch as they prepared for the second test, and Blues coach John Kirwan resting captain Ali Williams and key flanker Luke Braid.

Among those not released by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen were fringe players Francis Saili, Steven Luatua and Charles Piutau. None were named in the team for the second test. Hansen defended the decision, stating he required them for training.

If the Blues express an interest in playing England the NZRU it may generate some heated responses from other interested parties, miffed at the Auckland-based side being awarded the plum match for a second consecutive season.

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Meanwhile, Riach said had little to report in relation to Dan Carter's imminent sabbatical during next year's Super Rugby competition.

Although the All Blacks first five-eighth has yet to publicly declare his intentions it is believed he may follow Richie McCaw and take a complete break from rugby for six months.

"While he has that right [sabbatical], as far as I am aware the matter is still unresolved," Riach said.

- The Press

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