Rugby: Bledisloe test locked in for Hong Kong

The fourth Bledisloe Cup test will remain in Hong Kong, with the New Zealand and Australian resigned to absorbing an unforeseen financial hit.

Poor ticket sales raised the prospect of relocating the October 30 clash from Hong Kong Stadium to England rugby headquarters at Twickenham, where a large antipodean ex-pat community might have boosted the revenue-generating exercise.

Christchurch was also briefly touted as an alternative last week, where proceeds could go earthquake relief.

But New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew today confirmed the third "neutral" Bledisloe would remain in Asia.

"We've been worried about ticket sales for some weeks so explored options," Tew said, adding logistically it was impractical to make a switch.

"It's a big move and we've sold tickets. There are fans that have made a commitment to travel bookings."

Last week only 10,000 tickets had been sold for the 40,000-seat venue, home of the iconic Hong Kong sevens.

Tew was hoping demand would increase but accepted the union would probably have to cop a loss.

"This is revenue at risk so it definitely has an impact on our bottom line," he said.

"We'll have to reforecast and we'll be doing that at the next board meeting."

Hong Kong hosted the first Bledisloe clash on neutral ground in 2008, a historic occasion that did not sell out.

Tapping the Japanese market by hosting a game in Tokyo before both teams headed to Europe last year also failed to meet expectations.

"It's a more sobering experience," Tew said of the current apathy in Hong Kong.

"This is clearly a disappointment, we'll have to rethink what we're doing going forward."

With the World Cup taking place next year, there will only be two Bledisloe Cup tests included in a compressed Tri-Nations schedule, the same applying if and when Argentina join an enlarged southern hemisphere competition.

Tew said a third Bledisloe test could be reintroduced in 2012, again as a stopover enroute to Europe.

With interest in Asia apparently waning, Twickenham might be a viable location. Denver in the United States has also previously been nominated as a possible venue.






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