Wellington - The All Blacks would have played England in
November had the Rugby Football Union arranged the Test but the existing
fixture against the Barbarians was always their preference, New Zealand Rugby
Chief Executive Steve Tew said on Thursday.
The match against the Barbarians on November 4 was confirmed
on Wednesday, ending the hopes of some in England that the Six Nations
champions could pit their wits against the world champions before their next
scheduled meeting in late 2018.
England equalled the New Zealand's 18-match winning streak
on their way to claiming the Six Nations title this month but failed to better
the top tier record after losing to Ireland last Saturday.
Tew confirmed that discussions had been held over what would
have been a highly lucrative Twickenham clash between the top two teams in the
world but that coach Steve Hansen had made it clear that the Barbarians was
always his first choice.
"Steve ... and the group know we've got to play extra
games and so we work very co-operatively with them around making sure we get a
balance between the maximum revenue we can generate," Tew told reporters
on a conference call on Thursday. "He said if (playing England instead of
the Barbarians) was where it lands, and that's the option that's best for
everybody, then we'll do that, but it will be a challenge."
The All Blacks typically have just three official test
matches on their end-of-season tours to the northern hemisphere but have
occasionally scheduled a fourth game outside the international window to
generate additional revenue.
In the past they have played Japan in Tokyo and both the
United States and Ireland in Chicago en route to Europe.
Tew conceded that a matchup with England would have produced
a larger windfall than the invitational Barbarians but that NZR had to balance
the desire for revenue with concerns over player workload.
"If we had have played England then the returns would
have been greater," Tew said. "It would have been a good opportunity
to find out what that number might look like.
"But our preference, given the All Blacks have got
three very competitive Lions Tests in front of them and then home and away
against Australia, South Africa and Argentina ... and then we've still got to
play France, Scotland and Wales.
"Another big game was not our preference."
Tew said the end of year tours were hugely physically and
mentally draining on the players, coming as they do after the lengthy journeys
necessary to compete in the Rugby Championship.
"We're incredibly mindful of how hard the end of year
tour is on our players," Tew said.
"The term Steve used ...is that we crawled across the
line in Europe last year, another game at the end of this year would not be
England are scheduled to play Argentina, Australia and Samoa
in November, while the All Blacks face Scotland, Wales and France.