New Zealand refuse to confirm Samoa-All Blacks Test
July 5, 2014
Fans have been teased by a report the All Blacks will perform their haka in Samoa in 2015 © Getty Images
New Zealand Rugby has denied reports it has confirmed an All Blacks Test against Samoa in Apia next year, union chief executive Steve Tew saying "there remains a number of considerations we have to work through, including timing, commercial feasibility and the team's preparations for Rugby World Cup 2015".
The New Zealand Herald claimed on Saturday that Samoa would host the All Blacks in a Test for the first time in 2015, as part of both teams' Rugby World Cup preparations, saying the respective unions were understood to have reached agreement to stage the match in late July after the completion of the Super Rugby competition that will run through June due to the absence of inbound tours in a World Cup season.
Tew said later in a statement that New Zealand Rugby "would very much like to take a match to Samoa" but the union had only "completed positive initial talks about the prospect of an All Blacks-Samoa Test with sponsors and the International Rugby Board, who had committed early support".
"Once we have worked these through, we would then be in a position to talk to Samoa Rugby. It's fair to say that a 2015 Test is a possibility. However, until we've worked through those important aspects, we're not in a position to confirm anything."
The teams have played each other in five Tests - all in New Zealand, the first in 1993, none since 2008 - but New Zealand Rugby has come under increasing pressure to play fixtures in the Pacific islands to support their neighbours and to pay homage to the heritage of many All Blacks past and present.
The All Blacks are yet to play in Samoa, Fiji or Tonga, but they played Japan in Tokyo en route to Europe last year and New Zealand Rugby recently announced a Test against the United States in Chicago this year - a match the Samoa Observer described as a "Shameful Samoa snub".
Tew said in March "the reality for us is … we have to do what's best for New Zealand rugby, and playing an All Blacks Test match in the islands just doesn't suit our program, but the union has come under pressure for its stance since it revealed that it had made a $NZ850,000 profit from the one-off Test in front of 27,000 spectators in Tokyo last year.
US Rugby subsequently is reported to have paid New Zealand Rugby "a guaranteed sum believed to be $US1 million to cover their costs" with regards to the coming Chicago Test, for which more than 40,000 tickets are already reported to have been sold. By comparison, the Apia Park ground that would host the All Blacks in Samoa has a capacity of 15,500
The All Blacks have played only 14 Tests against their Pacific neighbours - none before the 1987 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, and none after the 2011 tournament - and the announcement of the Chicago Test against the United States re-ignited the issue on the public agenda in New Zealand.
Popular television host John Campbell began a campaign to pressure New Zealand Rugby to send the All Blacks to Apia, and he presented his current affairs show Campbell Live live from North Harbour Stadium ahead of the Blues-Sharks Super Rugby match to start a petition for the All Blacks to play in Samoa. The #ABsToSamoa hashtag subsequently gained popular support on Twitter.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton