USA Rugby keen to stage Bledisloe Cup in United States

Kieran Read, the All Blacks skipper, stands at the front of the haka. Phil Walter/Getty Images

Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and ... Israel Folau? USA Rugby is determined to make a showpiece of the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in a bid to lure more big events to the Bay Area, perhaps even a Bledisloe Cup game.

The biggest Sevens event outside the Olympic Games will take place in northern California in July, with the men's and women's tournaments staged together at AT&T Park, the home of Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants.

With the reigning NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors, also moving to the Bay Area, there is a growing push to make the region a sporting hub and USA Rugby hopes to capitalise on that as they look to spread the gospel of the "game they play in heaven".

With more than 60,000 tickets already sold for the Sevens, there is obvious interest in marquee sporting events. The Bledisloe Cup is just that, and New Zealand Rugby's decision to take its second game to Japan in October provides a precedent for offshore trans-Tasman showdowns in the three-Test era.

"Without a doubt, I think we would look at something like that, as a discussion point, even conceptually," USA Rugby chief executive Dan Payne told ESPN. "One of those games, this year they're taking one of New Zealand's Bledisloe games to Japan; again that would be something that would have the brand, the marquee marketing ability in the States to help grow the game, without doubt.

"If we can bring in high-level, elite, competition, that helps build awareness, helps tick all the boxes for the municipalities ... the travel, it's a win-win. So I would say we'd continue to try and work that through."

USA Rugby has already proven its capability in helping to facilitate a rugby Test between two non-American nations in the historic Chicago thriller from 2016 when Ireland defeated New Zealand. The Emerald Isle's first ever win over the All Blacks also ended the world champions' record-breaking 18-match winning run.

Soldier Field, the home of the NFL's Chicago Bears, had previously hosted Tests between the U.S. and both the Wallabies and All Blacks. But that doesn't mean the Windy City has a mortgage on big-ticket rugby events, with the Bay Area squarely in the sights of USA Rugby. And the friendlier timezone for the nations Down Under is just one of the obvious drawcards.

"Without a doubt," Payne said when asked about the region's chances of hosting the game should it eventuate.

"We have six key geographic regions that are our primary focus, and northern California is one of those over the next four years. Without saying anything specifically, now knowing that we have got such great partners up there, you don't want to go and try and reinvent the wheel anywhere else. If we have a great opportunity and there's a reason to take something to northern California, to the Bay Area, it almost makes too much sense.

"It will be something ... it will happen. I just know it will happen because there are too many good relationships that have been forged just out of this event [Sevens] that everybody can benefit from."

The prospect of the U.S. hosting a Bledisloe Cup Test may appear to be somewhat far-fetched at this point, but Rugby Australia, formerly the Australian Rugby Union, had previously raised the prospect of a trans-Tasman showdown in New York City.

Former ARU General Manager Rob Clarke said that any region with a strong expat presence that was interested in more rugby content would be a "consideration for us".

There is also the short-term issue of the Sydney stadiums 'quagmire', which has already seen Australia's only home Bledisloe Cup Test next year head to Perth.

Should the planned rebuild of ANZ Stadium not be completed in time for the 2020 series, when Australia have two home Bledisloe Tests, then an offshore showdown staged by Rugby Australia could well be on the agenda.

The governing body is giving little away as to any possible Bledisloe link with USA Rugby, but chief executive Raelene Castle on Wednesday spruiked her interest in growing the Wallabies brand into emerging rugby markets.

"There's a huge opportunity with having a World Cup in Japan that allows you to build a platform into having some conversations in the Asian market that perhaps we didn't have previously," Castle said.

"That's certainly something that we'll be looking for as we move towards that, and there's been an announcement that the third Bledisloe Test is going to be in Japan; so that gives us a really good platform both from a high-performance preparation viewpoint, which is really important.

"So we can now go up and test some systems and structures and work out what it's like to take a game into Yokohama Stadium and know, from a high-performance perspective, what we're going to be facing from a team point-of-view. But it also allows us to start some of those commercial conversations with a lead-in to the World Cup the following year."