Eden Park double header for Four Nations

New Zealand will stage its biggest rugby league event in more than 20 years after confirmation today that Auckland’s Eden Park – headquarters for the 2011 Rugby World Cup – will host a spectacular Four Nations doubleheader on November 6.

In a massive show of support for New Zealand sport, the NZRL will host the lion’s share of the 2010 Four Nations winning four of the seven matches as well as the right to the Rugby League International Federation Player of the Year awards night.

In doing so the NZRL is set to stage one of the first major events at the fully re-developed Eden Park almost a year ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

“It’s a huge boost for New Zealand sport and a really positive step forward for both the NZRL and the World Cup-winning Kiwi team,” New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Jim Doyle said today.

The feature clash of the programme will be the world champion Kiwis’ encounter with Australia – the first time the two sides have met on New Zealand soil in three years – preceded by England’s clash against 2008 World Cup stars Papua New Guinea.

The decision was confirmed today in a joint announcement by the New Zealand Rugby League and its Four Nations partners, the Australian Rugby League and the Rugby Football League.

"This double header will be the biggest rugby league event in New Zealand since the 1988 World Cup final at Eden Park and could become the biggest of all time," said Doyle.

"It'll be a tremendous moment for the game to have rugby league’s major powers all playing at the same ground on the same day.

"It's also a huge honour for our game that we'll actually be giving the new-look Eden Park one of its first major attractions."

Doyle added it was hoped the doubleheader would produce New Zealand rugby league’s biggest crowd in history, topping the record 47,363 for the 1988 World Cup final at the same ground. He said Eden Park’s capacity for the November 6 extravaganza would be 50,000.

The week leading up to the back-to-back Tests was set to become a rugby league festival with confirmation the annual RLIF Awards dinner would also be staged at Eden Park, tentatively on Wednesday, November 3.    

The Kiwis will launch the 2010 Four Nations campaign with their opening match against England at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on October 23, followed by their second pool game against Papua New Guinea at Rotorua’s International Stadium on October 30. With England meeting the Kumuls at Eden Park it means New Zealand will stage four of the seven Four Nations matches.

The final has been set for Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on November 13.

Doyle said details of the Kiwis’ build-up for the Four Nations were still being worked on but it was expected they would again play a lead-in international against one of the Pacific nations with England also likely to have a lead-up international in  New Zealand. It’s possible this too could be a doubleheader at a venue yet to be confirmed.

“It’s exciting for the team, for the fans and the country as a whole that we’re now in a position to bring major international rugby league back to New Zealand and especially to have Australia playing here,” said Doyle.

After creating history by winning the World Cup in 2008, the Kiwis will play a key role in two landmark events this year. The first comes in the Anzac Test in May when they meet Australia in the first match played at Melbourne’s new stadium and just a few months later, they’ll now meet again in the Four Nations at Eden Park.
             
2010 Four Nations - Schedule

October 23 New Zealand v England    Westpac Stadium Wellington, New Zealand
October 24 Australia v Papua New Guinea Parramatta Stadium Sydney, Australia
October 30 New Zealand v Papua New Guinea International Stadium Rotorua, New Zealand
October 31 Australia v England Venue TBC Melbourne, Australia
November 6 England v Papua New Guinea Eden Park Auckland, New Zealand
November 6 New Zealand v Australia Eden Park Auckland, New Zealand
       
November 13 Four Nations Final Suncorp Stadium Brisbane, Australia