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All Blacks confirm historic July test schedule against Pasifika neighbours

By Alex McLeod
George Bridge scores one of his four tries for the All Blacks against Tonga. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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New Zealand Rugby [NZR] have confirmed the All Blacks will host their Pacific Island neighbours in an historic test window in July.

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In an announcement made on Monday, NZR confirmed the All Blacks will kick-off their international campaign against Tonga in what will be their first-ever test at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium, traditionally a rugby league and football venue, on July 3.

The match at the Penrose-based stadium will be preceded by a clash between the Maori All Blacks and Manu Samoa as part of a double-header.

The action then moves to Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 10, when Fiji returns to Dunedin to face the All Blacks a decade after they were thumped in their last meeting the New Zealanders 60-14 in the final test at Carisbrook in 2011.

Ian Foster’s side will then round out their July test schedule against Fiji at FMG Stadium Waikato on July 17 as part of a double-header in Hamilton that will see Manu Samoa square off against Tonga in a World Cup qualifier beforehand.

The match between the All Blacks and Fiji will mark the first time in history the two nations have played back-to-back tests against each other.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said he was excited to for the All Blacks and Maori All Blacks to host Fiji, Samoa and Tonga in two months’ time.

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“We’re absolutely delighted to be able to confirm what will be a fantastic series of matches featuring the All Blacks, Maori All Blacks and our Pacific neighbours, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa,” he said.

“We look forward to welcoming the Flying Fijians to New Zealand for what will be an historic, first-ever, back-to-back All Blacks test series against them.

“We know the passionate All Blacks and Maori All Blacks fans, together with the fanatical Pasifika fans, will make these game days very special occasions.”

Fiji Rugby Union chief executive John O’Connor added that head coach Vern Cotter is doing all he can to assemble a top-quality squad despite the nation’s second wave of COVID-19 infections.

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“We would like to thank New Zealand Rugby and World Rugby for their support in giving us this great opportunity for our players and, likewise, our coaching panel,” O’Connor said.

“We are excited about this great opportunity and will be doing all we can to prepare well for the two test matches.”

Tonga Rugby Union boss Peter Harding was similarly excited about the prospect of the ‘Ikale Tahi facing off against the All Blacks for the first time since 2019, when the New Zealanders romped to a 91-7 victory in Hamilton.

“The Tonga Rugby Union is proud to be presented with the opportunity to play the All Blacks. The connection between the two countries is very strong and this connection is amplified through rugby,” Harding said.

NZR noted details a second World Cup qualifier between Manu Samoa and Tonga are expected to be confirmed in due course.

Likewise, fixtures for this year’s Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship will be announced at a later date, with Auckland’s Eden Park and Wellington’s Sky Stadium expected to host numerous matches in those campaigns.

All Blacks July test schedule

July 3: vs Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland at 7:05pm (Maori All Blacks vs Manu Samoa, kick-off time TBC)

July 10: vs Fiji at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin at 7:05pm

July 17: vs Fiji at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton at 7:05pm (Manu Samoa vs Tonga, kick-off time TBC)

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All Blacks confirm historic July test schedule against Pasifika neighbours

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