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NFL set to reveal New Zealand games – report

The NFL American football league is set to confirm a series of exhibition games in New Zealand, according to the Sunday Star Times.

The New Zealand-based publication said plans for a ‘Southern Bowl’ competition have been in the works for four years and are set to be unveiled at a media conference at Eden Park in Auckland on Wednesday. The Star Times said Eden Park will be the venue for one of two games, with the Wellington Regional Stadium also pencilled in to host NFL action. International event management company Douglas Webber Events is said to be behind the venture.

The newspaper said the Southern Bowl will likely involve six NFL franchises, including the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals. Once the final 53-man rosters for the 2015-16 season for these franchises are confirmed in late July, the Star Times said two “high-profile” coaches will select squads from those players who miss the cut.

The NFL is keen to expand its international footprint, but New Zealand hasn’t been one of the markets regularly touted for games. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last month said a future regular-season game in Mexico or Germany, along with the potential staging of the Pro Bowl in Rio de Janeiro, had been discussed by the league’s franchise owners.

Goodell said both Mexico and Germany have reached out about hosting games, and there is “renewed interest” among the owners. The NFL will stage three regular-season games in London, England for the second straight year in 2015.

The NFL hit the headlines in Australia and New Zealand in October when NRL rugby league star Jarryd Hayne (pictured) announced he would quit the code to pursue a career in the National Football League. The 27-year-old Australian subsequently signed for the 49ers in March and is believed to be on the verge of making their 53-man roster.

New Zealand interest in the NFL is represented through Hamilton’s Paul Lasike, who signed with the Cardinals at the start of this month, and Auckland-born Stephen Paea, who is contracted to the Washington Redskins.