New Zealand All Blacks may play in Denver

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New Zealand All Blacks may play in Denver

Is there a market in the USA for watching the All Blacks? It would be great to see, but not in front of an empty stadium.

Bidding for the All Blacks' extra Bledisloe Cup test this year has intensified, with Denver officials holding a secret meeting with the NZRU in Wellington yesterday.

The Americans are in a two-way battle with Tokyo to host an extra All Blacks test in October or November, and are pulling out all stops to get the match.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew confirmed he had met Metro Denver Sports Commission president Kieann Brownell and was expecting an official commercial offer to be tabled in coming weeks.

Denver is pitching a three-to-five-year agreement to host the All Blacks at the 73,000-seat Mile High Stadium, home to the Denver Broncos National Football League team.

However, while the face-to-face meeting had advanced negotiations, Tew hinted Tokyo could be a safer option as the immediate follow-up to last November's landmark neutral test in Hong Kong.

"Tokyo is as far down the track as this [Denver], yes. We have a very firm offer to play in Tokyo and that's encouraging," he said.

"Look, we are taking a two- or three-year view of this we are not just talking about 2009. We may be looking at a programme that goes through 2010, 2011, 2012.

"These people want firm, long-term programmes.

"The challenge for us is to make sure it's successful as an attraction. We are mindful of the importance of the All Blacks and their reputation.

"It's not a circus and we also wouldn't be delighted if they ended up playing in a half-full stadium.

The NZRU banked about $4 million from the Bledisloe Cup test against Australia in Hong Kong, but could gain a far bigger payday in the massive American and Japanese markets.

Japanese officials are understood to be close to finalising a deal with one of the country's major sports marketing firms that would provide a solid financial guarantee for a cup match in Tokyo.

Wherever this year's match is played, Tew indicated the American market was a matter of when, rather than if, for the All Blacks.

"You can sit back and listen to the critics, but at some point you have to take the leap of faith and do it. You will never know otherwise."

Tew said the Denver delegation had made an impressive case, found a suitable gap in the NFL schedule in the October-November time frame, and was very confident of selling out a rugby test.

"The Broncos have 71,000 season tickets to only about 29,000 season ticket holders and they have 25,000 people on the waiting list, so databases like that clearly get us pretty excited," he said.

"They wouldn't be talking to us and putting up the sort of commercial arrangements we've seen from them and expect to see again soon unless they were pretty confident.

"There's no doubt what they put in front of us is comprehensive. There would be no issue that we could play in the stadium and it would be an appropriate venue.

"The challenge for us is getting the right timing to put a game on in the US market and to make sure Denver's the right place for it.

"They are very confident they would go close to selling it out and are going to come back to us with a renewed commercial approach, which should reflect exactly how confident they are."

It seems all that now remains is whether the yen or greenback is more enticing to the NZRU as an international market that is crucial to the game's survival like never before.

Here are the highlights from the Munster / All Balcks match in 2008.
This was interesting as the Munster (Wales - Red) team had five ex All Blacks in it as well, so they did their own Haka (war dance).
By netchicken: posted on 5-2-2009

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