The opening fixture of the All Blacks‘ season against a Pacific XV is set to be announced in the coming week, according to a report from the New Zealand Herald – providing that an agreement can be reached with New Zealand’s provincial unions.
The match, first revealed last month, is set to pit some of the country’s brightest young Pacific Island talent up against the All Blacks and give the New Zealand national side a chance to test their wares before they face off with the Wallabies.
While neither the match with the Pacific XV nor the games against Australia have been confirmed by official sources, the Herald has indicated the former fixture is in the final stages of being arranged.
Former All Blacks Eroni Clarke and Michael Jones – not Tana Umaga, as first rumoured – are set to coach a side that will be limited to picking one or two players from each Mitre 10 Cup province.
The game is due to take place on October 3rd at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland – three weeks into the Mitre 10 Cup season. As the All Blacks will already be pulled from the competition to prepare for the Bledisloe Cup matches, allowing Clarke and Jones to withdraw even more players from the competition would likely be considered too disruptive.
The Hurricanes star has endorsed the Pacific Islands having a Super Rugby team, saying the game hasn't done enough to give back so far. #CRUvHUR #SuperRugbyAotearoa #Hurricanes https://t.co/iTUHnI409I
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 23, 2020
While non-NZ contracted players were anticipated to be included in the Pacific squad, they would have to already be based in New Zealand due to travel restrictions in place due to the COVID pandemic. They would also have to receive permissions from their overseas clubs, which may prevent their inclusion.
The Rugby Championship, likely hosted solely in New Zealand, is tentatively scheduled to kick off on November 7 while the first Bledisloe could take place on October 10.
New Zealand last played a Pacific Islands composite side in 2004. That team was mostly comprised of players who had already earned caps for Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now