13 Mar 2009

Tonga to play All blacks in opening match of World Cup

10:15 am on 13 March 2009

Tonga will face the All Blacks in the opening match of the 2011 Rugby World cup in New Zealand.

The schedule for the tournament has been announced, with Fiji to take on a side still to qualify from Africa on the second day of the 6-week long tournament.

Rugby New Zealand 2011's chief executive Martin Sneddon says they chose Tonga over traditional rivals France, and the reigning champions South Africa.

"The Pacific Nation people are going to play an important part in this tournament. We know that Tonga and Fiji have already qualified. We know that htere is a strong chance that Samoa will qualify. There are a large number of people from those nations that reside in New Zealand and that have a very strong affinilty with New Zealand. And we want them to be part of what we're doing."

Martin Sneddon says one of the features of World Cups has been the way that Pacific teams have risen to the occasion.