New Zealand Rugby has confirmed it is in talks over a hybrid match between the All Blacks and Australia’s national rugby league team, the Kangaroos.
Chief executive Mark Robinson told reporters in New Zealand that it has “had the option put to us” of playing a 14-a-side match between the teams in December.
The All Blacks have been the dominant international team in the 15-a-side code with a more than 80 per cent win rate over 115 years. The Kangaroos have been similarly top-ranked in 13-a-side rugby league. Although league is an offshoot of union – the sports splintered more than 100 years ago – they are substantially different in style and skill-sets. Agreeing on a set of rules which would suit both codes will be difficult.
Robinson stressed New Zealand Rugby’s priority is to establish a Test schedule for the All Blacks, against traditional opponents including Australia’s Wallabies, before the end of the year.
The All Blacks were due to play Scotland and Wales in July but those Test matches have been abandoned because of the coronavirus pandemic. Bledisloe Cup matches against the Wallabies might be able to go ahead as early as October if both countries are able to control the virus outbreak. Tests against northern hemisphere teams are unlikely this year, though New Zealand Rugby is hopeful some matches might be played in November or December.
“The concept of the All Blacks playing the Kangaroos later in the year, we must be very clear that our priority is we want the All Blacks to play international rugby for the remainder of the year and we’ve talked about the uncertainty associated with that,” Robinson said.
“But absolutely we’ve had the option put to us of this hybrid game with the Kangaroos. It’s one of many different scenarios in a unique year like this that we’re considering with looking to be innovative and having a focus on trying to consider revenue-generating ideas.” Robinson said the concept of a cross-code match is “not new” and had been discussed in 2017.
“At that stage for various reasons it wasn’t taken any further,” he said. “We’re interested in learning more, as we are a whole range of things that are being put to us at the moment.
“We’ll work that through and go through the proper process in terms of making a decision if we feel it’s got merit to take it further.” Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, pictured, was more positive, saying New Zealand and Australia are in “serious negotiations” over the proposal and a tentative date of 5 December has been set, though a venue hasn’t been confirmed.
“I’m keen to make this happen,” Meninga said. “We want to play the All Blacks. Hopefully, we can get the concept off the ground.”