The All Blacks XV will participate in the inaugural Halloween Rugby Weekend, at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver this October, with Fiji, the USA and hosts Canada completing the lineup for the event.
The games will feature the All Blacks XV squaring off against the Flying Fijians on Halloween night and Canada taking on their continental rivals the USA.
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NZR chief rugby officer Nigel Cass says the establishment of the All Blacks XV as a new high-performance team follows in the footsteps of similar teams which have assembled throughout New Zealand’s recent rugby history, including the Maori All Blacks, New Zealand A and Emerging Players. The core function of the team will be to serve as a development pathway for the next group of potential All Blacks players and coaches.
‘The All Blacks XV will be our second-tier team below the All Blacks and made up New Zealand’s “next best” players,’ Cass explained.
‘This is a fantastic opportunity for those players to experience a national team environment and prove themselves on the international stage, or for those who have already worn the All Blacks jersey to get more game time at this level and potentially earn a recall to the team.
‘We also believe that this will aid with the retention of players and personnel in New Zealand, which will benefit our Super Rugby clubs and provincial unions as well as the All Blacks.’
Cass said that, while the concept of a second-tier national team was not new in New Zealand, the intention was for the All Blacks XV to become a regular national team playing second-tier overseas opposition.
‘These teams have been sporadic in the past, and we believe that there is great value in making this a regular national team going forward.
‘Beyond its high-performance role, this new team also has real commercial value for NZR. It will play offshore in growing rugby markets that are of strategic and commercial importance, allowing us to showcase and grow New Zealand’s brand of rugby in many more parts of the world,’ Cass added.
Photo: Andy Rain/EPA