Friday, 28 February 2014

New Zealand considering alternative of playing a North American XV


More details emerged about the All Blacks November trip to the USA, but player release remains a barrier towards a playing the Eagles and an alternative of North American XV has been mentioned.

Unlike Japan who have have full access to their squad outside the IRB release window, the USA have 20 internationals based in Europe among them are leading players such as Chris Wyles, Samu Manoa and Takudzwa Ngwenya.

Because of that initially the NZRU were planning on facing some sort of invitational side under the "World XV" moniker, but USA rugby were insistent on their preference for the game to be a test with the Eagles as opposed to some exhibition game.

Unfortunately for the USA the clubs are paying players' wages and are all well within their right to keep them for their matches over that first weekend in November. The USA offered to make a deal where they could get players for the game and release them back early in return, like Canada did to get Jeff Hassler and Tyler Ardron from the Ospreys available for the Maori game last year. Problem is, it's one thing getting one individual side to agree to that, it's another thing to getting about 10, especially with PRL very strict on this matter.

The RFU manage to get their players available outside the window, but they pay a lot of money to PRL for that arrangement and give them a share of a profits for extra out of window matches. For other nations, if a club agrees to release a player outside the window such as Northampton and George North they get fined.

Negotiations between USA and PRL and LNR are ongoing but there is no word yet on the probability of success of them. In the NZRU statement it mentioned the possibility that should the USA not manage to get a full side an alternative could be a North American XV involving Canada as well, which would be a side mostly involving the best domestic based players from each nation as well as any player that manages to be available. It's a similar idea to the proposed team to play in the "Lions Challenge" last year, but that idea along with missing top players, would probably not have on field partnerships or likely passion of playing for a national side and could be weak.

Where the match will be played is another question, it seems likely that it will be in a big venue either in New York, Washington or Chicago. The 60,000 Soldier Field was mentioned as the favourite earlier, but it could depend a bit on the team, a mix of Canada/USA without their best players may hurt the fixture somewhat in how much audience and interest it gets.

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