All Blacks out of Rugby Classic
New Zealand have been jettisoned from this year's 30th anniversary of the World Rugby Classic because of financial constraints.
Ireland will instead join defending champions Argentina, Canada, France, Italy, South Africa, the United States, and the Classic Lions, who will now feature players from England, Scotland and Wales.
John Kane, the Classic president, revealed that replacing the All Blacks with Ireland will save about $50,000 in airfare and open up new sponsorship and hospitality opportunities.
“The Classic has to run a very tight budget in these economic times and, because of the distance, New Zealand is by far the most expensive team to bring to Bermuda,” Kane said.
“With the Classic being shown on Sky Sports, primarily in Europe, we have an opportunity to attract financial support from there.
“We also have a marketing opportunity to attract rugby supporters from the Irish community on the East Coast of the US.
“The primary reasons are to reduce costs and to attract new supporters.”
New Zealand were beaten 15-5 by Argentina in last year's final at North Field. It will be the first Classic the All Blacks have missed since 2013, when organisers plumped for Australia as they had better sponsorship and the support of the Australian Rugby Union.
“[New Zealand] are certainly an iconic brand, but this is just a rest,” Irishman Kane said.
“Two of the three southern hemisphere teams have sponsorship within their country, or here, which takes part of the airline and hotel costs away from the Classic.
“A New Zealand team, with airfares and accommodation, costs over $100,000, while Argentina have fares sponsored and South Africa have the hotel sponsored; New Zealand have neither.”
Kane added that it was fitting for Ireland to be included in the 30th anniversary of the Classic as they were one of the original five teams at the inaugural event in 1988.
Shane Byrne, a familiar face to Bermuda, having played for the Classic Lions at previous competitions, will manage Ireland at the competition, which will run from November 4 to 11.
The 46-year-old played 41 times as a hooker for Ireland and made four appearances for the Lions.