Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Bledisloe Cup clash opens new era

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New Zealand and Australia will kick-start a new era in international rugby by staging the first match of the four-nation Rugby Championship next year.

The Wallabies will host the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on August 18 before the Springboks take on newcomers Argentina later that day in South Africa.

The old Tri-Nations format has been consigned to history, with the Pumas added to form a four-team competition featuring six Tests for each nation.

The championship-opener will be the first of 10 Bledisloe Cup matches to be played in NSW over the next decade under an agreement with the state government.

"We have come a long way and to open the Rugby Championship with a Bledisloe Cup Test against our closest and most ferocious rivals - and to lock in that game against the All Blacks 'same time, same place' for the next 10 years is hugely exciting," said Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill.

"To kick off that decade of Sydney Bledisloe Cup Tests in the same year we launch the Rugby Championship is wonderful for the game.

"They are our two greatest assets - one with a spectacular history and tradition and the other in start-up mode but with enormous expectations."

O'Neill believes the advent of the Rugby Championship will only strength southern hemisphere rugby, adding: "Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have won six of the seven Rugby World Cups contested and Argentina reached the semi-finals in 2007 and tested the All Blacks in a tough quarter-final of the 2011 RWC.

"Argentina has waited a long time to play in a regular competition at the highest level and their inclusion into the Rugby Championship from 2012 provides that opportunity.

"To bring our four nations together and have them playing home and away in destinations so diverse in culture, weather and landscape will be spectacular. This will be the best of the best."

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