ARU bids to host Lions opener to 2017 All Blacks tour

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Money spinner: The Lions won the series against Australia last summer.

The Australian Rugby Union said Thursday it is attempting to lure the British and Irish Lions back Down Under for a money-spinning kick-off to their 2017 tour of New Zealand.

ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said the bold bid for a one-off Lions blockbuster would go some way to recouping lost revenue from next year's World Cup season.

The Lions provided a massive cash injection to the domestic game last year when they played nine matches around the country to full grounds, including a 2-1 Test series victory over the Wallabies.

The tourists, combining the best players from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, kicked off their 2013 tour against the Barbarians in Hong Kong and Pulver said he is keen for a similar tour opener in Australia.

"That's one of the conversations we've been having with them (Lions officials)," Pulver told the Australian Associated Press.

"If they want preliminary games outside New Zealand then we would be a wonderful location for them.

"We would take it in a heartbeat."

The Lions were whitewashed 3-0 by the All Blacks on their last tour to New Zealand in 2005 and the four unions are looking closely at ensuring their best preparations for the next tour.

Pulver admitted a Wallabies-Lions showdown was unlikely during the Super Rugby season but other options were being considered. The cash-strapped ARU face extra financial strain next year with likely just two home Test matches scheduled — down from seven — due to the international season revolving around the World Cup, to be held in England in September and October.

The Wallabies may host the All Blacks in Sydney and South Africa or Argentina, in a Rugby Championship encounter, in Brisbane.

There will be no June Test window next year and Super Rugby will run unbroken from mid-February through to a July 4 final, instead of a late season three-week break implemented this year, the ARU said.

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Sport360° view: Salary cap increase may prove utter waste of time

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Bath target: Australian scrum-half Will Genia.

Premiership Rugby’s decision to increase their salary cap for a second season in succession has received a mixed response, but clubs should be aware that engaging in an arms race with France and Japan is no guarantee of success.

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea is one high profile figure who believes the extra £500,000 (Dh3m) and additional marquee signing are needed in order to bridge that gap.

Bath are believed to have already sounded out Australian scrum-half Will Genia, and it may not be long until rugby union has its first £1 million (Dh6m) player. Seeing the Wallaby No9 orchestrating a back division that already includes George Ford, and is awaiting the arrival of Sam Brugess, would undoubtedly get pulses racing.

The club would in turn expect to see an increase in attendances but at a time when record crowds are already streaming into Premiership grounds, is it a step that is really needed?

Aside from the new marquee player rule that will allow a club to sign an additional player outside of the cap, as long as they are new to the league or have been absent for more than 12 months, the figures still lag well behind France.

The basic cap in England will be raised from £5m (Dh30m) to £5.5m for the start of next season, two years after French Top 14 clubs saw their allowance hit €10m (Dh47.6m). In pure economic terms then, English clubs will still have a battle on their hands to compete with their cousins across the channel.

Of course, being able to sign two players outside of that cap will give Premiership clubs a chance to sign the likes of Genia, and even Steffon Armitage.

Yet, that fact makes a mockery of the claim that these changes are intended to keep as many English-qualified players from heading abroad.

It is an issue dear to England head coach Stuart Lancaster’s heart, and was cited as a primary reason for the continued absence of Armitage from his squad. But the real reason England can continue to overlook a player of the Toulon No8’s quality, is the competition for places that currently exists between English players at English clubs.

The key performers in the important positions at most clubs at the present moment are homegrown, giving the national team an abundance of potentially gifted players.

It has also led to a more competitive league, with at least eight teams, if not more, harbouring ambitions of playing in the end-of-season play-offs.

In the first two weeks alone, Wasps have hinted at a resurgence, narrowly losing to Saracens before beating champions Northampton, while Exeter have put 50 points on London Welsh and pushed Leicester remarkably close. In turn, stadiums have been full and at the moment at least, the Premiership does not appear to be a tournament on life support.

It should be wary not to jeopardise that success with a vain chase to catch up with the Joneses in France and Japan.

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All Blacks hold firm to defeat South Africa

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Battling victory: New Zealand's Ben Smith in action at the Westpac Stadium.

The All Blacks had a third successive Rugby Championship crown in their sights after beating South Africa 14-10 Saturday in a top-of-the-table clash involving the world's top ranked sides.

It was a match which South Africa desperately wanted to win to cap celebrations for captain Jean de Villiers 100th Test, but instead they came up just short despite repeatedly hammering the All Blacks line in the closing 10 minutes.

The All Blacks, who defended a proud record of not having been beaten on home soil in 34 matches dating back to 2009, dominated territory and possession for most of the match.

But they were guilty of poor skill execution and a predictable game plan that the Springboks easily read and came close to trumping.

The tourists shored up the inside channel where Brodie Retallick lead the All Blacks heavy runners at fledgling Springbok fly-half Handre Pollard, and put sweepers in to cover the excessive All Blacks kicking.

The All Blacks points came from a try to Richie McCaw, two penalties by Aaron Cruden and a penalty to Beauden Barrett.

For South Africa, who saw their title hopes slip further away, Cornal Hendricks scored a try with Pollard landing the conversion and a drop goal.

It was a second consecutive defeat for South Africa after losing 24-23 to Australia last week when Bryan Habana reached his century of Tests.

Although the All Blacks controlled much of the game they were guilty of too many turnovers and it took a penalty from Cruden in the 10th minute to put the All Blacks on the board.

The 20-year-Pollard refused to be rattled from all the attention he was getting and two minutes later fledgling international was instrumental in setting up the Springboks opening try.

After drilling the All Blacks into the corner with a racking kick he then put Cornal Hendricks through a gap for the right wing to step around Israel Dagg to score.

Cruden closed the gap to 6-7 with his second penalty after captain Richie McCaw was held up over the line but was unsuccessful with a third attempt just on half-time that would have regained the lead for the All Blacks at the turn.

The All Blacks opening try came early in the second half with a well-weighted cross kick to Kieran Read and he was able to stand up in the de Villiers tackle to pop a simple pass to McCaw who scored in the corner.

Scrum-half Aaron Smith, who blew a first half try opportunity when he lost the ball diving for the line, missed a second opportunity in the second spell when he toed the ball over the line only to be outsprinted by Willie le Roux.

Pollard brought the Springboks within a point of the lead with a drop goal to narrow the gap to 11-10 before replacement All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett landed a penalty to extend the margin to four points.

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