Napier gets All Black test, Chch loses out

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2013
All Blacks
Reuters
OLD AND NEW GUARD: All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw, left, and captain in waiting Kieran Read won't be leading the side into test action in Christchurch next year.

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Napier is the winner and Christchurch the loser after venues were confirmed for the All Blacks' six home tests for 2014.

England's three June tests will be played in Auckland (June 7), Dunedin (June 14) and Hamilton (June 21), though Christchurch will at least host the sole midweek match of the tour between the second and third internationals on June 17.

Napier's McLean Park joins Eden Park and Westpac Stadium in Wellington as venues for the three home Rugby Championship tests in 2014, while the add-on third Bledisloe Cup contest will be in Brisbane next year.

The All Blacks will host the Wallabies at Auckland's Eden Park on August 23, the Pumas in Napier on September 6 and then wrap up their home Championship fixtures against the Boks in Wellington on September 13.

Christchurch's Addington-based AMI Stadium - a post-earthquake temporary solution - and New Plymouth's Yarrow Stadium are the two venues from 2013 which miss out next year. McLean Park is the new addition.

New Zealand Rugby announced the venues and moved to assuage potential disappointment and discontent from the Canterbury rugby community by confirming that Christchurch would host a Rugby Championship fixture in 2015.

The truth is Christchurch's post-earthquake compromise venue is the least equipped of the New Zealand venues to handle the demands of a test, and its capacity of just over 18,000 and limited corporate facilities means it is not among the national union's big revenue generators.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew anticipated England, on the back of some more than competitive recent tests against the All Blacks, would prove a "huge" drawcard in June.

However, the likelihood of the England side missing a swathe of regular first-choice players for the series opener in Auckland may make the Eden Park fixture a hard sell.

The English club final is not until May 31, and players from that match will not be considered for the opening test. That could result in around a dozen regulars being absent from the Eden Park clash.

Tew was rapt that they were able to offer Cantabrians the consolation of a midweek match between the touring English and Crusaders.

The June series concludes at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium on June 21, completing a special weekend for rugby in the northern part of the country with the final of the junior world championship the night before at Eden Park.

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Tew said it was important to bring test rugby back to McLean Park for the first time since the Napier ground hosted World Cup fixtures in 2011.

"The city warmly welcomed France, Canada and Japan for two matches during the cup and fans turned out in force, so I am sure they will turn it on again for our Argentinian visitors next year," he said.

The last time the All Blacks played a test in Napier was in 1996 when they hosted Manu Samoa.

The Auckland Bledisloe test on August 23 follows the competition, and series, opener a week earlier in Sydney. The Springboks return to the capital for the first time since 2011, when they were thumped 40-7 by the All Blacks. 

- Fairfax Media

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