Kangaroos versus All Blacks hybrid rugby blockbuster is backed by Hull KR’s Shaun Kenny-Dowall

ALTHOUGH many will see it as all rather futile, aside from the chance to make some much-need cash, it is still hard not to be drawn in by the chance of potentially watching the All Blacks take on the Kangaroos in a hybrid game of rugby.

Shaun Kenny-Dowall pushes forward. Hull KR v Wakefield Trinity. BetFred Super League. KCOM Craven Park Stadium. 31 January 2020. Picture Bruce Rollinson

In fact, let’s be brutally honest, after almost four months of no games in either code in this country, the prospect of the union versus league clash might lead some to be positively salivating.

New Zealand Rugby have said they are interested in the proposal that would see the three-times world champions face Australia’s rugby league World Cup winners, possibly on December 5.

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In a year where finances in the respective games have been decimated by the coronavirus, it is understandable why both parties may be open to such a bold suggestion, especially if border restrictions mean the All Blacks’ Bledisloe Cup series with the Wallabies cannot get underway in October.

Of course, we have been here before; for over a decade a one-off contest between Australia’s rugby union side and the Kangaroos has been touted without ever occurring and Bob Dwyer, the former Wallabies coach, has regularly and unsuccessfully looked at forming a hybrid game of some sort.

In this instance, the details so far are scratchy aside from the fact it will be 14-aside but the lure of the mighty All Blacks and the famous Green and Golds facing off against each other is something that will entice many.

Hull KR centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall, for one, is hopeful it gets off the ground arguing its potential to raise rugby league’s profile across the world and especially given he has a foot in both camps.

Although born in Brisbane, he moved to Auckland aged three and grew up in New Zealand, before heading back to Australia to make his name in the NRL.

New Zealand's Beauden Barrett (centre) breaks clear during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool B match at International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama City. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 21, 2019. See PA story RUGBYU New Zealand. Photo credit should read: Adam Davy/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Strictly no commercial use or association. Still image use only. Use implies acceptance of RWC 2019 T&Cs (in particular Section 5 of RWC 2019 T&Cs) at: https://bit.ly/2knOId6

There he made his name with Sydney Roosters where he won a Grand Final alongside dual-code superstar Sonny Bill Williams and faced many of the current Kangaroos stars.

However, Kenny-Dowall represented New Zealand on the international stage, winning 21 caps for the Kiwis and twice helping them lift the Four Nations.

“These are two great brands,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“The All Blacks and the Kangaroos. The All Blacks will take the game of rugby league global and it will catch a lot of attention.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 20: Boyd Cordner of Australia looks on during the International Test match between Tonga and Australia at Mount Smart Stadium on October 20, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

“It will do the game of rugby league a lot of good but to see the talent of both codes and how they will fare is something the fans will really jump on.

“You have a perception of what a rugby union athlete is like and the way they train and play is a lot different to rugby league.

“I personally think that rugby league is a lot harder but it will be interesting to see how union v league plays out. I’m not too sure how the rules will be but it should be an awesome spectacle to measure athleticism and endurance and ability from both codes.”

The 32-year-old, who moved to the Robins from Newcastle Knights last autumn, has a background in union from his childhood in New Zealand.

“I played rep’ rugby for Waikato and did about five years over there when I was growing up,” he recalled.

“It’s a massive game and it’s the number one sport in New Zealand.

“You grow up watching the All Blacks and still admire the success they have on a global scale.

“I think they have the highest winning percentage of any sports team in the world and their legacy speaks for itself so it will be great to see them against the Aussies.

“I wish they were coming up against the Kiwis rugby league team, though!”

Although not the same, in England, a cross-code battle did take place back in 1996 when Wigan faced Bath over two matches.

Wigan won the rugby league game 82-6 with Martin Offiah scoring six tries before they lost the union contest 44-19 at Twickenham.

The Wigan side that day included Jason Robinson, Henry Paul, Shaun Edwards and Andy Farrell who ironically, in one way or another, would all go on to have successful careers in union.

More recently, St Helens lost 41-39 to Sale Sharks at Knowsley Road in 2003 with one half of each code played but there has never been any cross-code action on the international scene.

Clearly, the game currently under discussion – Australia head coach Mal Meninga says they are in “serious negotiations” – would be different in that it would be a mixture of rules.

That said, given England’s home three Test series against the Kangaroos this autumn has been cancelled due to the fall-out of Covid-19, it would prove particularly galling if their planned opponents ended up playing in an exhibition contest instead.

Certainly, if the Green and Golds did manage to get a game on in December after its State of Origin series is complete, you would imagine the most obvious opponent would be the New Zealand Kiwis rather the New Zealand All Blacks.

Nevertheless, undoubtedly people would be intrigued by the chance to see James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell and Josh Papalli go up against Beauden Barrett, Ardie Savea and co.

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