All Blacks Confirm Eden Park ‘Pacifika Challenge’ Test Double-Header

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Samoa v New Zealand
APIA, SAMOA - JULY 08: Manu Samoa and the New Zealand All Blacks walk out for the International Test match between Samoa and the New Zealand All Blacks at Apia Stadium on July 8, 2015 in Apia, Samoa. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

New Zealand Rugby have just confirmed the schedule for a unique fixture for June. The Test announced will be part of a double-header; with Tonga to play Wales earlier in the evening, and has been dubbed the “Pasifika Challenge.”

The New Zealand All Blacks will host Samoa in a critical game–only a week out from the upcoming British and Irish Lions test series [beginning June 24].

All Blacks Confirm Eden Park ‘Pacifika Challenge’ Test Double-Header

In a media release, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) have announced the Pasifika Challenge double-header on Friday June 16, that will see the All Blacks play Samoa in a pre-DHL New Zealand Lions Series hit-out; preceded by Tonga playing Wales.

The Tonga-Wales Test will kick off at 5.30pm, followed by the All Blacks-Samoa Test at 8.00pm. The double header will be broadcast live and exclusive on SKY TV.

NZR Chief Strategy and Operations Officer Nigel Cass said the unique night of rugby was an exciting opportunity to showcase Pacific Island rugby. “The Pasifika Challenge promises to be a great night for Pacific rugby.

“To have Samoa and Tonga playing Test matches back-to-back in an unprecedented double-header will be something unique.”

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen Reiterated the Sentiment.

“It’s great that we’re going to play Samoa. 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.”

See the below video, to hear the New Zealand All Blacks coach speak about the importance of this match.

With the Lions series squad to be announced on June 8, this hit-out is ideal to develop the side chosen, but also to test fitness of players. Some, including captain Kieran Read have been hit by injury, so the timing is ideal preparations.

Match Not Only a Warm-up for All Blacks

Manu Samoa head coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia said the opportunity to play the All Blacks slotted perfectly into their June schedule. “The addition of this match has been perfectly timed for us. It gives us a great build-up for our own June and July internationals.”

The location of Eden Park, with Auckland–the most population Polynesian city in the South Pacific, should draw a wide and colourful mix of fans. That will include New Zealanders, plus a mix of Samoan and Fijian fans, plus those vocal Welsh fans too…it will make for a cosmopolitan venue indeed.

Samoa Head Coach Extremely Proud

“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.”

Tongan Rugby CEO Fe’ao Vunipola said, “On behalf of the Tongan Rugby Union’s President, Hon Samuela Akilsi Pohiva and the board, I would like to convey to NZR and World Rugby Tonga’s sincere thanks and gratitude for the arrangement to host our match against Wales. To be involved in a double-header with the All Blacks playing Samoa is a fantastic opportunity.”

Tongan players perform the haka during the 2017 Pacific Test Invitational match between Tonga and Fiji at Campbelltown Sports Stadium (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

“It’s a great honour for us as a nation to be taking part in the Pasifika Challenge.”

Wales Head Coach Robin McBryde said “We have a huge amount of respect for rugby’s Pacific heritage, so to be able to compete in a double-header celebrating that is very special. It should be a fantastic occasion.”

Note: The Tonga fixture was shifted from Nuk’alofa under the recommendation of World Rugby. LWOR would hope that some of the monies raised during this match maybe used to improve the facilities in Tonga, for future test matches.

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Pre-sale tickets for Team All Blacks supporters available Thursday May 11, with public sales available from Monday May 15.

Pricing is as follows:

  • Category A: $140 ($100 for restricted view, $50 for child)
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  • Category C: $70 ($50 for restricted view, $30 for child)
  • Category D: $45 ($30 for restricted view, $20 for child)
Visit Ticketmaster for a ticket to this unique event.

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