New Townsville stadium to host Wallabies Test
TOWNSVILLE'S new stadium has landed a prime rugby Test, with the Wallabies to meet Fiji there on July 18.
Friday's announcement by Rugby Australia will bring the first Test to Townsville since the 2003 Rugby World Cup, in another major win for regional Australia.
The recent announcement that Newcastle will host the Wallabies' Test against Argentina at McDonald Jones Stadium on September 5 also inadvertently confirmed that Townsville was top of the queue for the Fijian visit.
The bounce in crowd numbers when taking rugby Tests to new stadiums is well established.
Perth's Optus Stadium made a record fuss of last year's Bledisloe Cup Test with a 61,000-strong turnout.
The Test schedule has worked in Townsville's favour big time for the Test, which will be played at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
The Wallabies play a Test against Ireland in Sydney a week earlier on July 11 and it was unworkable to play back-to-back weeks in Sydney, even with Bankwest Stadium in Sydney's west so suited to host internationals.
The 25,000-seat venue in Townsville was built to host more than just NRL games, but the Test announement is proof it can be a magnet for other major events.
The Townsville experiment also shows that Rugby Australia is serious about road testing venues that will be on the masterplan for the 2027 Rugby World Cup hosting bid.
Queensland coach Brad Thorn said the positive vibe to the recent Super Rugby trials in Dalby and Gladstone had highlighted again that the Reds represent far more than just Brisbane.
Thorn strongly advocated trials in regional hubs again next year when also talking up how good it would be to host Super Rugby in Townsville as well.
"I love the regional trials and hope people see we have a real interest in rugby in the state not just Brisbane," Thorn said.
"From a coach point of view, it would be great to take a Super Rugby game to Townsville. I'm all for it."
Queensland Rugby Union chief executive David Hanham said Townsville was definitely in discussions for future matches.
"I think country people see a genuineness to connect from the players who visited more than 20 centres across the state on Reds-to-Regions visits last November and saw the hardships for people on the land," Hanham said.
"I do see the Reds playing Super Rugby games in Townsville and it's definitely in our planning for the future."
The last Super Rugby match was played in Townsville as a one-off in 2006 when the Reds faced the Highlanders.
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