All eyes are on February 2024 when the Crusaders will embark on their first ever international tour.
The 2023 DHL Super Rugby Pacific champions will play Munster on Saturday 3 February, and Bristol Bears on Friday 9 February.
It’ll be the first time the Crusaders have played in Europe since 2011 when they played the Sharks at Twickenham as part of the 2011 Super Rugby season, following the 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch.
Colin Mansbridge, Crusaders CEO, said “the Crusaders are thrilled to be coming over to the UK and Ireland to face some stiff competition away from home”.
“NZ and Australian clubs have been working on the World Club Competition for years, so when an opportunity for Super teams to play Northern Hemisphere counterparts came up, it was just too good to pass up,” Mansbridge said.
Munster are current United Rugby Championship title holders, having beaten defending champions the Stormers on 27 May in Cape Town. It was their fourth title win.
“Munster have a history of giving touring sides a pretty hard time, so they present particularly tough competition. There’s also the added connection with our new head coach Rob Penney who coached there,” Mansbridge said.
The Bristol Bears play in England’s Premiership Rugby and topped the table in the 2020-21 season. They took out the Challenge Cup in 2019-2020, beating European Champions Toulon while also scoring the fastest try in European Challenge Cup.
“It’s exciting to play against a club of Bristol’s calibre, and one that we already have a relationship with. Razor and Pat Lam have been close for a long time, and Bristol Bears Academy member Andrew Turner made his Crusaders debut this year,” Mansbridge said.
“It’s also a fantastic chance for our new coaching group to connect, and for our playing group to travel and compete together in a new environment.”
Pat Lam, Bristol Bears Director of Rugby, said “to be able to welcome one of the best club sides on the planet to Ashton Gate is incredibly special and this fixture is a unique opportunity for our players, staff and supporters”.
“The Crusaders are the reigning Super Rugby champions and we’re relishing the opportunity to take on the best club side in the Southern Hemisphere at what is sure to be a packed-out Ashton Gate,” Lam said.
Ian Flanagan, Munster Rugby CEO, said the club was “delighted to welcome the Super Rugby champions to Munster, hosting a ground-breaking fixture against the Crusaders”.
“We hold a proud and rich history of playing touring sides and I’ve no doubt next February’s game will be a special occasion for all involved,” Flanagan said.