The NFL is going to the land where rugby is king, with the league reportedly planning a series of games in New Zealand, including one featuring a local legend.
The league is reportedly planning two games to be played in New Zealand, one in Auckland and the other at Wellington Regional Stadium.
As Stuff.co.nz reported, the games will be quite a bit different than preseason exhibitions played in places like Mexico.
The outlet noted as follows.
“The ground-breaking concept, which has been nearly four years in the making and is likely to be called the Southern Bowl, will involve six NFL franchises – including the Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals.
Once the final 53-man rosters for the 2015-16 season for those franchises are confirmed in late July, two high-profile coaches will select squads from those players who miss the cut. The coaches will likely announce their squads towards the end of September.”
That means that former rugby star Jarryd Hayne, who is on the San Francisco 49ers and likely to be cut, could be returning to play before the home country. Paul Lasike, another former rugby star in the NFL, could play as well.
The matches are seen as an important move into New Zealand, where the NFL is mostly a blip on the sports radar. But a new infusion of rugby players into the NFL has created an opening, and the league is reportedly trying to take advantage with the games.
The NFL has already moved internationally. There have been 11 games at London’s Wembley Stadium since the NFL International Series began in 2007, with three more this coming season.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said there could be even bigger plans for London one day.
“There’s a great deal of interest in holding a Super Bowl in London,” Goodell told reporters when the series began in 2007. “So we’ll be looking at that.”
The league has also made expansions closer to home, playing games in Mexico and Toronto.
“The work we’re doing now is to ask, ‘How do we accelerate the agenda in Mexico, Canada and China?’ ” said Mark Waller, NFL vice president of international, in a March interview. “Those would be our next stage, and we have offices in those three countries. And then, after those, where should be our focus? I think we’ve concluded that Brazil and Germany are the next two frontier markets, which is where the Pro Bowl idea comes from.”
The NFL is expected to officially announce the New Zealand series this week.
[Image via Getty Images / Lachlan Cunningham]