Money the name of the game as All Blacks try to push their brand further and wider from Asia and the Pacific, possibly even to the US

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 November, 2008, 12:00am

Money makes the world go round or oval in the case of Steve Tew, who is in charge of the world's most recognisable rugby brand - the All Blacks - who will be seen for the first time at Hong Kong Stadium today.

A fact which the chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Union admits was the main reason why the Bledisloe Cup is being staged offshore for the first time in the history of the event.

'The revenue we will get from this game will help us in a challenging year,' said Tew. 'The commercial future of the game back home is tied to the Asia-Pacific region.'

But while acknowledging the cash-cow nature of this game, Tew deftly passed the buck when asked if the full house at Hong Kong Stadium was tantamount to proof the next World Cup should be held in Asia, in particular Japan.

'It is not for me to comment on what the IRB will do. I know Japan is working hard to get the next World Cup,' Tew (pictured) said.

'But this game is our gateway to Asia. This is our big push into the big Asian markets.'

New Zealand pipped Japan by a single vote to host the 2011 World Cup. The International Rugby Board's decision was condemned in some quarters as a huge step back for rugby's bid to grow the game globally.

The fact that Hong Kong, and indeed Japan, could draw a full house for a game featuring two of the best sides in the world would not have been lost on Tew and the IRB. But the NZRU chief executive chose to turn a deaf ear to the question. He has had enough on his plate recently. When the decision was announced that the Bledisloe Cup would be played in Hong Kong, it drew plenty of criticism from the public in New Zealand, unhappy an institution was being exported overseas.

But Tew insisted yesterday this was the way of the future. The success of the Hong Kong game has already brought overtures from the Americans and Tew revealed that talks were well down the line for a fourth Bledisloe Cup game to be played in Denver, Colorado, next year.

'Nothing has been done and dusted, but we are exploring this possibility. We have several options for 2009 and 2010. It might not necessarily be the Bledisloe Cup, but it could involve the All Blacks,' Tew revealed.

Richie McCaw and his men had better get geared up for more travelling next year if talks are successful. Denver is first in line, followed by Tokyo in 2010.

A match in the United States will bring serious money. While the game cannot be compared to the likes of American Football, NHL or the NBA, the All Black brand is recognisable and they would draw a crowd. But Tew was firm on one point: the Tri-Nations is sacred and the NZRU would never take it overseas.

The Hong Kong game is not part of this year's Tri-Nations, but an extra Bledisloe Cup game.

'We won't take a Tri-Nations game away from our domestic market in New Zealand unless we have a very good reason,' said Tew.

'We will never play a Tri-Nations game in a neutral venue.'

Hong Kong will have to savour every minute of the spectacle, which will unfold today. For next year, the Bledisloe Cup won't be back.

Tew said: 'It is highly unlikely we will be back next year. We are very happy with what has happened.

'The organisation has been superb and the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union has done a great job. But next year is out, maybe somewhere down the line we will be back.'

The reason the All Blacks won't be back - '2009 is pretty full'.