New Zealand Rugby Union officials will be asked for their ideal match-up for the opening match at the 2011 World Cup on home soil, but that does not mean the All Blacks will be granted a dream match against nemeses France.
Rugby 365 reports that the final decision on who will face the All Blacks in the much-anticipated opening match of their home tournament rests with the organisers, Rugby New Zealand (RNZ) 2011.
Martin Snedden, the RNZ 2011 Chief Executive, confirmed that they will make the call – not the NZRU or All Black management – as to the opponents for the tournament opener.
The World Cup draw held in London two weeks ago confirmed the All Blacks in the same pool as France, Tonga and two yet-to-qualify nations from Asia and the Americas.
Japan is expected to secure the Asian spot, while America or Canada are expected to be the final team to make up Pool A.
Tonga and the All Blacks’ World Cup nemesis France have been mentioned as possible opponents when the World Cup kicks off on September 9, 2011.
France have twice ended the All Blacks’ tournament hopes, in the semifinal stages in 1999 and then in last year’s quarterfinal in Cardiff.
The All Blacks won the first-ever World Cup by beating France 29-9 in the Final of the 1987 tournament.
Snedden said a host of interested parties would be asked for their suggestions, including the NZRU, but RNZ 2011 would have the final say.
“We will give them ideas of our thinking and ask for any feedback they have got,” Snedden told Yahoo!Xtra.
“It is like with the IRB, we are working with them quite a lot.
“And once the broadcasters are known, we will get into discussions with them to get their feedback to what works for them.
“It is a matter of getting ideas together.
“But in the end, it is up to us. We will go back to the best interests of the tournament.”
Tradition states the host nation plays in the opening match of the event.
While the World Cup draw has been completed, the actual playing schedule won’t be confirmed until mid-May.
Whether the All Blacks would want to play an opposition as strong as France first-up remains to be seen.
“That [All Blacks/France] is the thing people instantly jumped hold of,” Snedden told Yahoo!Xtra.
“And it certainly has a lot of appeal.
“But equally, for us, New Zealand/Tonga does have some appeal. It is a balancing act.
“We know that New Zealand are going to be playing France in the tournament. And it is going to be a special game whether it is the first, second or third round.
“It is really just a matter of working out where best it should be.”Tweet