Today is a milestone in the rich tapestry of the Crusaders story. The team flew to Ireland and England this morning on their way to face a new and unique challenge – the Northern Tour.
On Saturday 3 February (Sunday 4 February NZ Time) the Crusaders play Munster at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork, Ireland.
On Friday 9 February (Saturday 10 February NZ Time) the Crusaders play the Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol, England.
It’ll be the first time the team will play anywhere other than Australia and Fiji since Round 14 of the 2019 competition when they drew 19-19 against the Stormers in Cape Town.
“We’re very excited to get over there, the team is buzzing,” said Rob Penney, Crusaders Head Coach.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to connect before the 2024 season properly starts, and to test ourselves against some mighty opponents.”
Munster are current title holders of the United Rugby Championship, a competition including teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa and Wales. They’ve won it four times, their first title coming in 2002-2003.
Bristol Bears compete in Premiership Rugby, the top division of the English rugby union system founded in 1987.
“Travelling together, lining up against some big names in front of some big crowds, it’ll be huge for us in our prep,” Penney said.
Páirc Uí Chaoimh is traditionally a gaelic football ground, and will host a rugby union fixture for only the second time. The Crusaders encounter sold out in December with a crowd of 40,885 expected.
Ian Flanaganan, Munster Rugby CEO, said there was “great excitement ahead of next week’s unique fixture”.
“The fact that Páirc Uí Chaoimh is hosting a Munster Rugby game for just the second time adds to the sense of occasion and allows for a wider audience to witness the landmark event,” Flanagan said.
“We have a rich history against touring sides and they are special for the club and our supporters, we’re really looking forward to welcoming the world-renowned Crusaders to Munster.”
Ashton Gate Stadium is a historic venue in Bristol, opening in 1887. It hosted the All Blacks win over Tonga in the 1999 Rugby World Cup and will be a host venue for the 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup.
Gavin Marshall, Bristol Sport Group CEO, said hosting the Crusaders in Bristol would be “an historic occasion in the city”.
“Everybody at Bristol Bears is hugely excited to be welcoming the Crusaders to Bristol next month,” Marshall said.
“We’re also seeing this excitement within our fanbase, with tickets are selling at an impressive rate and on course for another bumper crowd at Ashton Gate.
“The unique nature of this fixture is also appealing to rugby fans across the country, and the expat community, as we prepare to host one of the greatest club sides on the planet.”
Crusaders v Munster will be live on Sky Sport 2, kick off 6am (NZT). For those outside of New Zealand, TG4 will have live TV coverage in Ireland and the match will be available worldwide on the TG4 Player and TG4 App.
Crusaders v Bristol won’t be broadcast on Sky. Streaming options are currently being worked through.