9 May 2017

Sport: Samoa vs All Blacks to be part of Pacific double header

10:55 am on 9 May 2017

A Pacific rugby double header, featuring Samoa against the All Blacks and Tonga against Wales, has been confirmed for Eden Park in Auckland next month.

Dubbed the "Pasifika Challenge", the Tonga-Wales test will kick off at 5:30pm on Friday 16 June, with the Manu Samoa-All Blacks test at 8pm.

The 'Ikale Tahi were originally scheduled to host Wales in Nuku'alofa but World Rugby deemed Teufaiva Stadium was not of the standard required for test rugby.

The Tongan team training at Nuku'alofa's Teufaiva stadium

The Tongan team training at Nuku'alofa's Teufaiva Stadium in 2015. Photo: Tonga Rugby Union

The All Blacks will play Samoa one week before the opening test of the British and Irish Lions series at the same ground.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said it was a great opportunity to showcase Pacific rugby.

"It's great that we're going to play Samoa," he said.

"Along with Tonga and Wales it's going to be a wonderful evening where you've got Pasifika rugby on show and Welsh rugby and New Zealand rugby.

"It allows us to fill a need for ourselves as we need a game to prepare for the Lions and also give something back to Pasifika rugby."

Manu Samoa and the All Blacks sing their respective national anthems at the stadium ahead of their rugby match in Apia

The All Blacks last played Samoa in Apia in 2015. Photo: RNZI / Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia

Manu Samoa Head Coach All Black Alama Ieremia said the opportunity to play the All Blacks slotted perfectly into their June schedule.

"It gives us a great build-up for our June and July internationals," he said.

"We know from hosting the All Blacks in 2015 that New Zealand has a special connection with Samoa and with Samoan rugby.

"We welcome the opportunity to give our players some much needed Test rugby, as well as a rare opportunity to play the best team in the world.

"We look forward to coming to Eden Park where hopefully our friends from all around the Pacific will help to make this feel as much of a home game for Samoa and Tonga as it is for the All Blacks."

Tonga Rugby Union CEO Fe'ao Vunipola thanked New Zealand Rugby and World Rugby for their assistance and said to be involved in a double-header with the All Blacks playing Samoa was a fantastic opportunity.

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