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Christchurch to host ‘quality game’

TONY SMITH A team of Kiwis from National Rugby League clubs could be playing an international fixture at the new Christchurch Stadium in September. The New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is keen to bring a “quality” game to Christchurch after being forced to take the 2011 Anzac test from the city after earthquake damage to AMI Stadium. NZRL marketing and sponsorship manager Trina Tamati said they hope to play the game at Christchurch Stadium “on the weekend of September 14-15″. “We’re hoping to introduce a new concept this year with a team very similar to the Australia Prime Minister’s XIII. It will be comprised of top Kiwis in the NRL whose clubs have effectively dropped out of contention for the NRL grand final,” Tamati said. Some players from outside the top-eight clubs whose NRL seasons ended in late August or early September “effectively come into the October [international series] or the Kiwis camp having not played for six to eight weeks”, she said. Their match fitness was lagging behind those whose clubs were still in grand final contention. “We thought it would be good to get game-time for those players by running a New Zealand XIII-type concept.” Tamati said the NZRL had yet to decide on a name for the team and no opponent been confirmed yet. “But it will be a good quality game, not a national domestic fixture. “The plan, at this stage, is to bring the game south and it’s certainly my preference to have it in Christchurch. “Since we had to take the test away from Christchurch last year, we’ve been working really to get something back there but obviously, with the lack of facilities available up until now, there’s never been an opportunity.” Tamati said the NZRL was working closely with Christchurch City Council personnel in a bid to make the game a reality. “Hopefully, it will be a big sellout.” There is no Four Nations end-of-season international rugby league tournament this year. The International Rugby League Federation (RLIF) has decreed that the Four Nations will not be played in the year leading up to the Rugby League World Cup in the UK, Ireland and France in 2013. But the Kiwis, who meet Australia in the first Anzac test at Auckland’s Eden Park on April 20, will play the Kangaroos in the return fixture at a yet-to-be-decided Australian venue on October 14. Meanwhile, the World Cup pool play and quarterfinals draw was released by the RLIF yesterday. The world champion Kiwis – top seed in group B – will play Samoa at Warrington, France at the Parc des Sports in Avignon and Papua New Guinea at Headingley, Leeds. The tournament kicks off on October 26, 2013, with the final on November 30. – © Fairfax NZ News

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