NZRU cancels Maori All Blacks game at National Stadium citing poor quality of pitch
For the National Stadium's pitch, the hits just keep on coming.
This time it comes from the New Zealand Rugby Union, which has cancelled November's Maori All Blacks clash with the invitational Asia-Pacific Barbarians,
The Maori All Blacks were scheduled to play the Tana Umaga-coached side at the stadium, the centrepiece of the $1 billion Sports Hub, on Nov 15, after two matches in Japan.
The New Zealand Rugby Union, however, said on Tuesday (Oct 21) the match has been cancelled due to the poor quality of the pitch that has drawn numerous complaints from sporting teams.
“We feel somewhat let down that this has happened at this late stage,” NZRU general manager planning and operations Nigel Cass said in a statement.
"It's very disappointing. This ground is state of the art, it opened in June and we had every reason to expect it would be a world-class venue," he added.
“However, the safety of our players is paramount and we were unable to get the assurances we needed that the pitch was playable.” - Nigel Cass, NZRU general manager planning and operations
The cancellation of the match could have ramifications for the ambitious plans of the owners of the Asia-Pacific Barbarians, who are one of two bidders for the 18th Super Rugby licence when the competition expands in 2016 and had hoped to base a team out of the Singapore stadium.
Southern hemisphere rugby’s governing body SANZAR had said the Singapore bid and another from Japan had been confirmed as the two finalists for the expanded competition as it looks to grow the game in the potentially lucrative Asian market.
The surface at the Singapore stadium, which was only laid in May and has failed to bed down, was slammed by Italian soccer champions Juventus in August when they played a friendly against a Singapore side, while it came under heavy criticism last week following Brazil’s 4-0 international friendly victory over Japan.
Asian soccer officials are also considering moving matches from next month’s Suzuki Cup from the stadium.
On their part, Singapore Sports Hub Pte Ltd has decided to move Jay Chou's Nov 8 concert to Dec 27 in a bid to allow the pitch as much time as possible to recover.
A decision on whether the matches for the Nov. 22 to Dec 20 Southeast Asian championship will be moved to co-hosts Vietnam or to a smaller venue in Singapore is expected this week.
Related reports: Sports Hub: Fans complain about state of pitch