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Tokyo favourite for Bledisloe on tour

By Daniel Brettig 04/12/2008 06:31:09 PM Comments (0)

Offers to play an offshore Bledisloe Cup fixture at rugby's traditional home of Twickenham or the exotic locale of Denver, Colorado appear likely to fall by the wayside as Australia and New Zealand pursue an aggressive thrust into Asia.

Negotiations with the Japanese rugby union to play a match in Tokyo next year to follow up on last month's wildly successful event in Hong Kong are progressing smoothly, and ARU chief executive John O'Neill made little secret on Thursday of his preference.

"Negotiations are continuing with the Japanese Rugby Union and its marketing arm, it's progressing but we haven't reached any point of finality yet," O'Neill said.

"It would be fair to say our preference is Tokyo one, Twickenham two, Denver three."

The expansion of a sport into the United States is the dream of any administrator, while the thought of a match between the game's two great powers at the home of English rugby offers a touch of romance.

But it is clear that O'Neill seeks an even greater foothold in Asia.

"Ourselves and New Zealand do have strategic ambitions in Asia," he said.

"The Bledisloe in Hong Kong this year on November 1 was very successful and we'd like to continue our strategy of trying to expand rugby's footprint in that incredibly important market."

O'Neill was in Adelaide on Thursday for the announcement of an expanded Adelaide Sevens tournament, taking the event into a third day next April.

After the success of the first two instalments, the event will now begin on Friday night before going on into Saturday and Sunday.

"It's our third year, we've had two very good years and the innovation we've introduced for 2009 is to start on Friday evening in twilight at 5.30pm through to 8.30pm," O'Neill said.

"It's been a formula used very successfully, particularly in Hong Kong and other places where the CBD crowd comes down for an after-work drink and enjoys the rugby as an appetiser.

"We had around 25,000 people for year one, 32,000 this year and we'd expect to get to about 40,000 next year.

"It is getting bigger year in, year out and sevens rugby is very important to us, we expect the Australian team to perform better under the new coach Michael O'Connor and quite a number of Super 14 contracted players will be on the team."

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