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Crusaders’ Super Rugby Match in Fiji no certainty
Local lad … Nemani Nadolo would be a crowd favourite in Suva.

Crusaders’ Super Rugby Match in Fiji no certainty

The Crusaders’ hopes of taking a match to Fiji hinge on Rob Nichol’s meetings with players this week.

Although broadcaster Sky are understood to be keen to screen the Super Rugby fixture between the Crusaders and the Hurricanes in Suva on May 29 and dealings with an underwriter are advanced, New Zealand Rugby Players Association boss Nichol said a variety of issues still be addressed.

Nichol plans to meet players over the coming days before tabling their views to the Crusaders, Hurricanes and New Zealand Rugby administrators.

“We go into this with an open mind, but from our perspective we would have to say we are a little bit concerned,” Nichol said.

“You need to look at things like season structure, managing workload, the whole year in that context and another week away from home. We respect why the Crusaders and Hurricanes would want to support this game at board level, but at the same time it is very important that we sit down and listen to the view of players.”

The match cannot be staged at Christchurch’s AMI Stadium because it clashes with the Under-20 FIFA World Cup programme. If it isn’t played in Fiji, then it will be transferred to Nelson.

The All Blacks may also prefer to play the game in New Zealand, bearing in mind that they could be in the United Kingdom for up to sevens weeks during the World Cup later in the year.

The Crusaders’ administrators will hope their impressive Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo will help draw a big crowd (another Fijian wing Jone Macilai is also in the squad) and support for their team.

There are risks involved; if Nadolo isn’t selected because of injury of form the locals may not be inclined to be so parochial to the “hosts”.

Nichol said he had a few concerns about the playing surface of Suva’s ANZ Stadium.

“That can be addressed. If the ground isn’t up to it, the Crusaders are going to be the last people to want to play the game from an administrative perspective,” he said.

The timing of the game also needed to be considered, said Nichol.

“I don’t think it would take a rocket scientist to work out the challenges of taking a game offshore with three game to go (before the playoffs) – the risk aspect associated with what will be a crunch time of the season,” he said.

“From a players’ perspective they are acutely aware of that and, I suppose, from our perspective we are fortunate that a lot of the players are senior, very experienced and have been in this situation and are thinking ahead.”

In 2011 NZ Rugby granted the Crusaders permission to play the Sharks in London because their home ground, Lancaster Park, was damaged in the earthquakes.

But in 2004 the Crusaders’ request to play a competition match against Queensland in Melbourne was declined. It was awarded to Nelson. The Crusaders also hoped to play pre-season matches in Singapore in recent years – something NZ Rugby didn’t oppose – but that never eventuated.

Yet NZ Rugby may look favourably upon the game being played in the Pacific because the Crusaders have taken a financial hit since the earthquakes.

The Press

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