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All Blacks lining up tests round world

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All Blacks lining up tests round world Empty All Blacks lining up tests round world

Post by Admin on Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:51 pm

The All Blacks are close to signing off an end of year schedule that will see them play old rivals France in Marseille and the Wallabies in Tokyo.

They will also play England at Twickenham and Italy in Rome and continue to work on plans to play a test against Wales in Cardiff and a game in London, probably at Wembley, against the Barbarians. The clash with France at the Stade Velodrome will be the pick of the contests, with the All Blacks having played twice before in the port city.

They opened their World Cup campaign there in 2007 with a crunching 76-14 defeat of Italy. Their previous encounter in Marseille was in 2000, when they lost 42-33 in what was - other than the quarter-final defeat of 2007 - one of the last great French performances that showcased their natural flair and instincts. The French have an outstanding record at the 66,000 capacity Stade Velodrome and have only lost once there, to Argentina in 2004. The All Blacks will meet France after they play Italy and England and the chances are now good they will also play a fourth Bledisloe Cup test in Tokyo.

The All Blacks had been weighing up an option to play a Bledisloe test in Denver but that offer was trumped by a better financial package put on the table by the Japanese. It is believed that Australia and New Zealand will take in excess of $3 million each by playing in Tokyo, considerably more than the Americans were offering.

Tokyo's bid was also strongly supported by Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill, who fostered strong relations with Asia when he was in a similar role with Australian soccer.

A New Zealand Rugby Union board meeting this month is likely to set the size of the All Black tour party, with all indications that numbers will be reduced from previous years for cost reasons.Last year, 35 players toured Hong Kong and the UK, but without a midweek game and with the NZRU on a mission to cut costs, coach Graham Henry might only be allowed to take a maximum of 30 players this year.

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