WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand Rugby has confirmed it is in talks over a hybrid rugby union and rugby league match between the All Blacks and Australia’s Kangaroos.
Chief executive Mark Robinson told Fairfax Media New Zealand on Thursday that it has “had an approach” over the possibility of playing a 14-a-side match between the teams in December.
The All Blacks have been a dominant team in 15-a-side rugby union with a more than 80% win rate over 115 years while the Kangaroos have been similarly top-ranked in 13-a-side rugby league.
Robinson stressed New Zealand Rugby’s priority is to establish a test schedule for the All Blacks, against traditional opponents including Australia’s Wallabies, before the end of the year.
The All Blacks were due to play Wales and Scotland in July but those test matches have been abandoned because of the coronavirus pandemic. Bledisloe Cup matches against Australia might be able to go ahead as early as October if both countries are able to control the virus outbreak.
Tests against northern hemisphere teams are unlikely this year, though New Zealand Rugby is hopeful some matches might be played in November or December.
Robinson said a hybrid match against the Kangaroos is “one of the many different options … we are considering. It’s not new. The last time NZR had an approach was in 2017.”
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga was more positive, saying New Zealand and Australia are in “serious negotiations” over the proposal and a tentative date of Dec. 5 has been set, though a venue hasn’t been confirmed.
“I’m keen to make this happen,” Meninga told Brisbane’s Courier-Mail newspaper. “We want to play the All Blacks. Hopefully, we can get the concept off the ground.”
Although rugby league is an offshoot of rugby union — the sports splintered more than 100 years ago —they are substantially different in style and skill-sets. Agreeing on a set of rules which would suit both codes likely will be difficult.