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Bledisloe Cup expanded


Gilbert match ball

Gilbert match ball

Gilbert match ball

Three Bledisloe Cup Test matches will be played annually from next year.

The New Zealand and Australian Rugby Unions made a joint announcement on Saturday that home and away matches scheduled under the revamped Tri Nations tournament from 2012, which includes Argentina, will be backed up by a third game for the Bledisloe Cup which will be played alternately in the two countries.

As a result New Zealand's new season will involve a three-match series in June (featuring three Tests against Ireland in 2012), the Tri Nations from August to October and a northern hemisphere tour in November.

New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew said a three-match Bledisloe Cup series fitted well into New Zealand's season.

"We think the new schedule strikes the right balance in terms of a reduced number and better mix of games, the commercial opportunities necessary to help fund our sport and for the team to have world-class competition," he said.

Revenue will be 'fairly shared' between the two unions for the matches on either side of the Tasman, something the NZRU would like to see applied to all of its matches.

Australian Rugby Union managing director and chief executive John O'Neill said the three-Test format for the next 10 years was 'a wonderful opportunity' to further lift the profile and popularity of the series.

"It will help us polish even further the lustrous profile of the Bledisloe Cup, which is our jewel in the crown domestically and arguably the most fiercely-contested and high-profile silverware on offer in the game after the Rugby World Cup," he said.

The unions indicated they had no plans to take the third match offshore.

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