The International Rugby Board has thrown its weight behind a proposed first Test for New Zealand in the Pacific Islands as support for the fixture continues to grow.
With New Zealand Rugby Union boss Steve Tew admitting recently that a Test in the Islands is increasingly close to becoming a reality, with Samoa the likely hosts, IRB chief executive Brett Gosper added his voice to those calling for the game to go ahead.
“It really is New Zealand rugby’s decision but we make no secret we’d love to see the All Blacks play in the Pacific, in Samoa, or anywhere in that region,” Gosper told the Sunday Star-Times. “We like to see the All Blacks play everywhere because they’re a great promoter of the game throughout the world.”
Last month New Zealand came under fire for announcing a fixture against the USA, scheduled to take place in Chicago on November 1. While the efforts to promote rugby in North America have been praised, concerns have been raised that the All Blacks are neglecting their Pacific neighbours.
“People criticise the commercial element of going to Chicago versus going to a place like Samoa, but it’s great for the development of the game they go to Chicago, and it’s great for the development of the game they go to Tokyo,” said Gosper. “But given the fact we’re the biggest investor in rugby in the Pacific region, we’d love to see the All Blacks appear there at some point, and we would do what we can to make it happen.
“I know at political levels there’s a lot of appetite for it, and that’s understandable. The links between New Zealand and the Pacific are huge, culturally and in rugby. It would be a great gesture if it could happen, no question.”