O'Neill wants Wallabies in Hong Kong - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

O'Neill wants Wallabies in Hong Kong

By Darren Walton 30/10/2009 08:31:50 PM Comments (0)

Australian Rugby Union chief John O'Neill has floated the possibility of the Wallabies taking on England in a Test blockbuster in Hong Kong next year.

While dialogue continues between the ARU and their New Zealand counterparts about staging another offshore Bledisloe Cup clash before the Wallabies' 2010 spring tour of Europe, O'Neill says the fixture might be one too many a year out from the World Cup.

Even Australia versus England seems a pipe dream, but O'Neill says pitting the Wallabies against their World Cup nemesis would be a promoter's dream.

"Playing England in Hong Kong would be fantastic, if you could find the right date," O'Neill said in Tokyo on Friday.

"You'd pack the joint out."

Regardless of what transpires, O'Neill says SANZAR remains committed to growing the game in Asia.

Last year's ground-breaking Bledisloe Cup Test in Hong Kong was a financial bonanza and officials are expecting Saturday night's trans-Tasman encounter at Tokyo's National Stadium to be similarly successful.

"I'm not sure whether (Wallabies coach) Robbie (Deans) and (All Blacks coach) Graham Henry would want to play four Bledisloes next year - the year before the World Cup, but we're looking at some alternatives," O'Neill said.

"We're very serious about growing rugby's footprint in this part of the world.

"We have ambitions for Japan to join Super rugby down the track as well, so this is a big strategic move by Australia and New Zealand.

"So we will continue to play big games in Asia. We'll make an announcement probably early next year as to where that match might be."

O'Neill said the idea of staging a Bledisloe Test in Colorado had "gone a bit off the boil".

"They're still keen but their financial model isn't attractive as what we can do in Hong Kong or here," he said, addressing enthusiastic Japanese journalists in Tokyo.

"And to get us to go to the US is not a tall order but it has to be pretty compelling because we are committed to Asia.

"I keep pushing the fact Japan are hosting a World Cup in 2019. (But) you can't possibly go into the tournament without your team having a chance of playing in the quarter-finals.

"If you're the host and your team doesn't make the quarters, it's a really bad outcome.

"Working backwards, 10 years out how can the Japanese rugby team, ranked 14th in the world, climb into the top eight teams?

"My view: two Super rugby teams in Japan. So the best 30 or 40 Japanese players would for 22 weeks of the year would be playing week in, week out Super rugby.

"You can't tell me they wouldn't get better."

"So, without dismissing north America's credentials and appetite, our strategic preference is Asia and both Hong Kong and Tokyo have expressed a very keen interest in next year.

"The time zone, the ability to fairly seamlessly grow rugby in Asia is more sensible than all the challenges that go with north America."

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