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O'Neill Keen To Continue Annual Asia Tests

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Fuseworks Media
O'Neill Keen To Continue Annual Asia Tests

Tokyo, Oct 30 NZPA - Australian Rugby Union (ARU) boss John O'Neill is adamant test rugby will continue in Asia next year as questions remain over the worthiness of tomorrow's Bledisloe Cup match here.

Whether it's a legitimate annual fixture or a money-grabbing exhibition match amid a packed schedule will divide opinion, but O'Neill was committed to play another end-of-year test in Japan or Hong Kong next year.

"Hong Kong was a great success and we have no doubt the match here will be a wonderful occasion," O'Neill said.

"We're very serious about growing rugby's footprint in this part of the world. We have ambitions for Japan to join Super rugby down the track as well.

"This is a big strategic move by Australia and New Zealand. We will continue to play big games in Asia."

O'Neill said Denver was a more unlikely venue, with the time zone and opportunities for growth in Asia much more appealing.

He said there were ongoing talks with New Zealand and South Africa over staging a test in Asia next year, and the venue would be confirmed in the new year.

But O'Neill conceded 15 tests a year, the standard diet for the All Blacks and Wallabies in recent seasons, was too taxing on players, and the international schedule needed re-examining.

"It's probably right that playing about 15 tests a year is too many. There are reasons for that which are largely financially driven. I'd think the ideal number is something like 12.

"There's quite a bit of negotiation to have the IRB over the international match schedule. The southern hemisphere has a view and, surprisingly, the northern hemisphere has a different view. I'm sure we'll find a solution."

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was diplomatic about the value of the Asia test, coming before a tough five-match tour of Europe.

He'd enjoyed the week in Tokyo, his first time in Japan, but was guarded about the toll on the players.

"Ideally you wouldn't be playing as many tests, everyone says that. But the reality is that it's become necessary," McCaw said.

"It'd be nice in the future to not be thinking like that. From our point of view it's just a reality and something we want to get on with and do as well as we can.

"It gives it something totally different by coming to a new country like Japan and playing. If we were playing at home it might have been harder to get going.

"Certainly on this tour you get away and it adds a bit of edge. I guess it's something that will be looked at, there's been discussions about whether it's the right thing to do, so time will tell."

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