Invercargill sets its heart on ABs test

Plans are afoot to host an All Blacks test at Rugby Park in 2020. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Plans are afoot to host an All Blacks test at Rugby Park in 2020. Photo: Peter McIntosh
A bold bid to bring an All Blacks test match to Invercargill in 2020 is brewing.

Various Southland leaders have been investigating what it would take to secure a first All Blacks test at Rugby Park in Invercargill.

It is understood a test against Scotland or Argentina in 2020 is viewed as a possibility for Southland.

Argentina played at Rugby Park in 2011 when it took on Romania as part of the Rugby World Cup.

The idea of trying to host an All Blacks match in Southland was initially put forward by Invercargill Licensing Trust board member Sean Bellew.

Mr Bellew said he was not representing the ILT, but instead was just an ''enthusiastic Southlander'' who had initiated the discussion.

Rugby Southland was also involved.

''I believe Southland can host a test match. We can make this happen,'' he said.

A small working group was investigating the feasibility of striking a deal with New Zealand Rugby before the prospect was put to potential funders.

''It would be much bigger than just footy,'' he said about the potential to create a festival for Southland around a test.

Venture Southland chief executive Paul Casson said his organisation was keen to be involved.

He said it would take a joint effort from many parties to get an event as big as an All Blacks test to the province.

It would be a similar process to when Southland lured a Joseph Parker boxing bout to ILT Stadium Southland in 2015, Mr Casson said.

The ILT, Community Trust of Southland, Venture Southland and the Invercargill City Council teamed up to put a $200,000 bid to promoters Duco Events to get the Parker fight in Invercargill.

‘‘That is what we are here to do, to help demonstrate Southland can do a good job in hosting these events.’’

The All Blacks test schedule has grown over the years, which has prompted New Zealand Rugby to look outside the bigger centres when allocating home test matches.

New Plymouth has previously hosted All Blacks tests and this year the All Blacks will play Argentina in Nelson as part of the Rugby Championship.

New Zealand Rugby planning and operations general manager Nigel Cass last year asked for expressions of interest for hosting major matches.

As a result, the Tasman Rugby Union, Nelson Regional Development Agency and Nelson City Council teamed up with private investors to secure the All Blacks test in September.

‘‘If Nelson can do it, we can do it,’’ Mr Bellew said.

Temporary seating at Rugby Park could boost the ground capacity to more than 20,000, which would help ensure it was a viable prospect for New Zealand Rugby.

-By Logan Savory

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