New Zealand Rugby has announced that it will send a squad of players to the U.S. over the next three years to play a series of tests against England.
The first will be held in Denver, Colorado, on June 23, 2018.
New Zealand players who have played at the 21-metre elevation of Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland will have to deal with the thin atmosphere of the Mile High City (1609 m), as Denver is known, so they would be wise to bring some New Zealand oxygen with them, or obtain some along the way. They should not try to buy it at the stadium in Denver, as the Yank vendors have the art of price-gouging elevated to a science.
The Brits can fend for themselves and will probably choose to hold their breaths the entire time, rather than inhale the uncivilised atmosphere of the colonies.
Rugby is growing in the U.S. as college clubs manned by discarded gridiron players seek valid excuses for early morning beer consumption and the singing of ribald songs.
One thing that remains to be seen if whether NRL clubs, which will be in the midst of the season, will release players to take part in the tests. It would seem to make more sense to use Super Rugby League players, who are more accustomed to the demands of international travel.
The Kiwi players will also have to brush up on their try celebrations, as the NFL players have raised the bar to an incredible degree following an NFL rule change ahead of the 2017 – 2018 NFL season that no longer called uninhabited dancing and mimicking of sex acts unsportsmanlike conduct for end zone celebrations following touchdowns.
New Zealand Rugby League Chairman Reon Edwards believes putting on topflight rugby in North America is crucial to growing the code internationally.
“Rugby League is making impressive strides in the United States and Canada,” Edwards said. “This test match is an opportunity to showcase the highest level of our sport in the North American market, which has significant participation and commercial potential.”