Hong Kong's position as a global rugby destination will be strengthened with the return of the Bledisloe Cup in October, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union executive director Robert Knight said yesterday.
In 2008, a full house of 39,682 fans watched the All Blacks take on the Wallabies in the first offshore clash of the trans-Tasman giants at Hong Kong Stadium, and organisers are confident they can draw another sell-out on October 30.
'The economy is much better than last year and the proof of that was the unprecedented success of the Hong Kong Sevens,' Knight said. 'It would be right to make the assumption that the Bledisloe Cup will also be a success. We are confident of an excellent event and that it will be a full house once again.'
Last year, the HKRFU decided against hosting a second international event because of fears the economic downturn would adversely affect ticket sales to the public and corporates, and sponsorship.
All three unions - Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong - officially confirmed yesterday the Bledisloe Cup would return after the International Rugby Board gave its blessing.
'We got the IRB sanction [yesterday],' Knight said. 'Bringing back the Bledisloe Cup will reinforce our position as a global rugby destination. With millions watching on television around the world this is rugby at its best and a real showcase for Hong Kong.'
New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said: 'We are delighted to be returning to Hong Kong. There was an incredible response when the All Blacks played the historic Bledisloe Cup test match there two years ago and we are expecting a similar experience.'
A Richie McCaw-led All Blacks side defeated the Wallabies 19-14 to win the 2008 series 3-1. The All Blacks are the cup holders.
'The Bledisloe Cup is an event of major international significance,' Australian Rugby Union managing director and chief executive John O'Neill said. 'To take the game to Hong Kong for a second time in three years - we went to Tokyo last year - is a sign that we are serious about embracing the Asian market.
'It's in rugby's global interests to ensure our footprint becomes more distinct in Asia, and to build on the wonderful advances the Hong Kong Sevens has made for the code.'
The All Blacks and the Wallabies will meet three times as part of the Tri-Nations series this year - the first will be on July 31 in Melbourne, then August 7 in Christchurch and September 11 in Sydney - before arriving in Hong Kong.
'We would love it if Hong Kong was the decider,' Knight said.
If New Zealand lead 2-1 coming into Hong Kong, they would keep the Bledisloe Cup for another year. But if Australia have their noses in front, the fourth and final meeting would be the decider.
Ticket prices have not been decided, but Knight said he would expect them to be in the same range as in 2008 when the costliest seats were HK$1,080 (along the halfway line and on either side of the pitch closest to the action), HK$980 (upper tiers) and HK$880 (behind the goal posts, including the South Stand).
'I don't think it will be an awful lot more. We will still have a range of prices and fixed seating,' he said.