COUNTING DOWN: Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Tony Lewis, New Zealand Rugby operations manager Dan Tatham and Nelson Regional Development Agency chief executive Mark Rawson on Monday. Photo: Andrew Board.

All Blacks ‘excited’ about Nelson test

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It feels a bit like Christmas at Tasman Rugby Union headquarters at the moment, “just 350 days to go” says CEO Tony Lewis.

But it isn’t a fat man in red he’s hanging out for, its 23 men in black.

The world-champion All Blacks will play its first ever test match in Nelson next October and preparations have begun in earnest.

On Monday New Zealand Rugby were in town to look over faculties and catch up with staff at Tasman Rugby.

NZR head of rugby operations Dan Tatham says the first meeting was about getting into the detail of the event.

“We’re immensely excited to be here and today is about starting the planning phase.”

He says the main challenge facing his team is the fact that it’s all new.

“We haven’t been here for a test match before. That’s why we want to work really closely with Tony and the crew at Tasman Rugby because they know this place like the back of their hand. We know how to run test matches, these guys know the venue so that’s where we’re coming together to run the event.”

He says the players are excited about playing in the region. “The All Blacks are for the nation so it’s good to be able to take games around the country.”

Tony says he hopes these are the first steps to a long-term relationship. “From our perspective we haven’t just put in for one test match and then pull up stumps and bugger off. We want to be here for the long term we want to push this so we can get a regional facility that we’re proud of.”

Nelson Regional Development Agency chief executive Mark Rawson says the game will be a big draw card for visitors, but also locals.

“It’s absolutely about building an extraordinarily experience not just a game. Both as a visitor experience but more importantly as a locals experience.”