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Crusaders consider London fixture
ESPNscrum Staff
March 7, 2011

Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach has confirmed that the Christchurch-based franchise are considering staging a match in London following the recent earthquake in the city.

The Super Rugby giants are set to find out this week whether they'll be able to play any of their home games at the quake-damaged AMI Stadium but they have plenty of options if their home ground is deemed unfit. Alternative venues in New Zealand and Australia have been offered while a high-profile fixture at Twickenham is also being considered.

"It's certainly an option, Australia's an option elsewhere around the country's an option and we want to balance that with our region," said Riach.

The Crusaders staged their opening home game against the Waratahs at Trafalgar Park in Nelson and will be back there on Friday to take on the Brumbies. They are also set to play at the Alpine Energy Stadium in Timaru although the capacity of those grounds are below that of the AMI Stadium where the Crusaders attracted an average crowd of 20,000 last season and so are not seen as a viable long term option for financial reasons.

"We can't get through our year on 10,500 people every week so we want to do something big and dramatic," said Riach.

The team's next scheduled home game is against the Sharks on March 25 with London's large ex-pat communities from New Zealand, South Africa and Australia making it an attractive option for the seven-time champions.

The Sharks have confirmed they are considering the proposal, with a decision expected to be made after they play their second tour match against the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.

"It is under discussion but we will only make a decision on whether to accept after our game on Friday," Sharks chief executive officer, Brian van Zyl, told The Witness. "While we understand their difficulties, we must make a rugby decision that is best for the Sharks' campaign. It must be a decision in the best interests of the team and our stakeholders."

The RFU would be interested should the Crusaders look to explore the idea further but the logistical hurdles could prove difficult to overcome. It would make most sense for the Crusaders to plan any London fixture immediately after one of their two blank weekends, at the start of April and the start of June.

The RFU would want enough time to be able to market the game and sell tickets, suggesting April would be too soon even if the fixture was confirmed tomorrow. Twickenham currently have plans to re-lay the pitch in June ahead of England's World Cup warm-up Test against Wales in August. But an RFU spokesman said: "We are open to the idea but we have not yet been approached."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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