The All Blacks' quest to win the Bledisloe Cup for a 20th straight year will begin on an unfamiliar day.
The first match in the two-test series is set to be confirmed for Thursday, September 15, with a potential clash with the NRL and AFL finals prompting the move.
Melbourne's Marvel Stadium will host the test, which will be the first Bledisloe Cup match played in a midweek slot since 1994, when Wallabies halfback George Gregan made a famous match-winning tackle on All Blacks wing Jeff Wilson in the dying moments.
George Gregan made a match-winning tackle on All Blacks winger Jeff Wilson in 1994. Photo / Getty
The match was initially intended to be played on a Saturday night but the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Rugby Australia this week proposed the schedule change and received a tick of approval from New Zealand Rugby.
The shift was necessitated by changes made this year to the Rugby Championship schedule, with the traditional two Bledisloe Cup tests moved from their normal August window to mid-September.
That caused a clash with Australia's other oval-ball codes, with the NRL and AFL both staging finals matches during the month. The clash was exacerbated by the Bledisloe Cup test being played in Melbourne, with Rugby Australia contractually locked in to the city after Covid-19 restrictions prevented a deal to play there in 2020.
The original September 17 date will play host to the AFL preliminary final at the MCG, potentially featuring the Melbourne Demons, while an NRL semifinal on September 19 could see the Melbourne Storm playing at AAMI Park.
Such a sport-packed weekend in the Victorian capital prompted concerns among rugby officials about both ticket sales and local fan interest.
With AFL and NRL finals also set to be played on Friday, September 16, the SMH reported that left Rugby Australia with little choice but to move the Bledisloe Cup match to midweek for the first time in 28 years.
Both the All Blacks and the Wallabies have the previous weekend off so there will be no concern about a tight turnaround for the players. The second Bledisloe Cup test will be played on September 24 at Eden Park, nine days later.