NZ to play RWC warm-up in Samoa

All Blacks Keven Mealamu is of Samoan heritage. Photo: Skysports

All Blacks Keven Mealamu is of Samoan heritage. Photo: Skysports

The All Blacks will play their first ever Test in the Pacific Islands next year against Samoa as part of their build-up to the World Cup, the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) said on Tuesday.

The long-awaited clash will take place in Apia on July 8, 2015.

The date of the scheduled Test is four days after next year’s Super Rugby Final and Hansen said it was highly unlikely that All Blacks who played the decider would be in action in Apia.

That raised the prospect of several first-choice players missing the Test against Samoa if two New Zealand teams contest the final, something that last occurred in 2006 when the Crusaders beat the Hurricanes.

”That hasn’t happened for a while,” Hansen told Fairfax Media.

“We’ll deal with it.”

Hansen disagreed with the tag ‘All Blacks B’, if, for example, the Crusaders and Chiefs meet in the Super Rugby Final.

”It’s not a B team, there’s no such thing as an All Black B team,” he added.

“The All Blacks are going to play Samoa, end of story, and if we’ve got two teams in the final, well, we’ll still have an All Black team going to Samoa and it’ll be the best team we can pick and they will be expected to play like All Blacks.

”You’ll expect them to win, I’ll expect them to win, and Stephen [Betham, Samoa’s coach] will expect them to get beaten.

“We’ve got every respect for Samoan rugby, but we also know that you can’t ask someone to play in a grand final and three days later expect them to back up in a test match. That’s just ridiculous.

”If we’re to play this game, that’s the day we can play it and we’ve got to give a bit to get a bit and we’re happy to do that.

“We’ve thought about all the things that could possibly happen and we still think we can go there and represent New Zealand the way they should be represented.”

NZRU chairman Brent Impey said the match was a way of marking the close rugby links between Samoa and New Zealand, who have fielded numerous players of Samoan heritage including greats such as Bryan Williams, Frank Bunce, Michael Jones and current All Black Keven Mealamu.

“Importantly, we are not only honouring rugby’s Pacific heritage, we are also providing players with a meaningful Test as part of our plan to ensure the All Blacks are in the best possible shape to win in England in 2015,” Impey said.

Despite New Zealand’s close proximity, the All Blacks have never played a Test in Samoa, Fiji or Tonga, with commercial considerations and a crowded international fixture list seen as the major obstacles.

As recently as May, the NZRU had said the world champions’ schedule meant there were no opportunities for a fixture until 2019.

New Zealand have played Samoa five times, winning all, with the most recent encounter a 101-14 mauling in New Plymouth in 2008.

The World Cup will hosted by England from September 18 until October 31 next year.


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Filed under All Blacks, Focus on rwc, Manu Samoa, Test

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