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Sport All Blacks line up Tonga, Fiji in July

03:50  17 may  2021
03:50  17 may  2021 Source:   aap.com.au

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The All Blacks will play Fiji and Tonga in July after the Test schedule was rejigged because of the coronavirus pandemic, New Zealand Rugby announced Monday. The three-time world champions were initially due to host two Tests against Italy and one against Fiji in the July international window Fiji coach Vern Cotter said he wanted to assemble his strongest possible team and was working out the logistics of getting overseas-based players to the Pacific island nation, which is currently battling a second wave of Covid-19 infections. "We have been looking at the overseas and also local players

Wellington (AFP) - The All Blacks will play Fiji and Tonga in July after the Test schedule was rejigged because of the coronavirus pandemic, New Zealand Rugby announced Monday. The three-time world champions were initially due to host two Tests against Italy and one against Fiji in the July international window before the Azzurri pulled out due to concerns about travelling during the pandemic. Instead, NZR said the All Blacks would stage one Test against Tonga and two against Fiji .

Despite a fierce off-field battle with their governing body, the All Blacks have locked in their return to international competition with three Tests against Pacific opposition in July.

Aaron Smith, Dane Coles are posing for a picture: The All Blacks have three scheduled Tests on home soil in July. © AP PHOTO The All Blacks have three scheduled Tests on home soil in July.

New Zealand will face Tonga on July 3, playing a Test for the first time at Auckland's Mount Smart Stadium.

Back-to-back Tests against Fiji follow on July 10 and 17 in Dunedin and Hamilton.

Rugby NZ says Auckland's Eden Park and Wellington's Sky Stadium will be used for Rugby Championship Tests later this year.

"We look forward to welcoming the Flying Fijians to New Zealand for what will be an historic, first-ever, back-to-back All Blacks Test Series against them," NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said.

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Fiji – Tonga relations are foreign relations between Fiji and Tonga . These neighbouring countries in the South Pacific have a history of bilateral relations going back several centuries. Though relations between the two countries had been good since they both became independent in the 1970s

Tonga (/ˈtɒŋ(ɡ)ə/; Tongan : [ˈtoŋa]), officially named the Kingdom of Tonga ( Tongan : Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga ), is a Polynesian country, and also an archipelago comprising 169 islands

Italy were originally scheduled to tour Aotearoa in July, pulling out to avoid inter-continental travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Away from the pitch, the players union and NZ Rugby remain at loggerheads over a proposal to sell off a minority stake in the team's commercial rights.

Earlier this month, the game's governing bodies endorsed a proposal from US venture capital giants Silver Lake worth $387.5 million ($A361 million).

The players union has stymied that deal, supporting a counter-offer from NZ-owned investment firm Forsyth Barr that would keep the All Blacks locally owned.

Mr Robinson said he was "shocked and disappointed" by the second bid, which comes after months of due diligence with the American firm.

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Keeping the All Blacks hopefuls prepared for an unpredictable call- up to the national side is a Fijian outfit that will be itching to prove their worth after much hype has been made about their World Cup chances. Following the completion of the two-match series, Fiji will then head into the Pacific Nations Cup, where they will play Japan, Canada and Samoa, before facing Tonga at Eden Park in Auckland as part of the Pasifika Challenge II on August 2. Maori All Blacks 26-man squad to face Fiji in Suva and Rotorua (bold denotes new cap)

The Kingdom of Tonga is the competition’s smallest nation, officially registering just under a thousand rugby players compared to England which registers nearly two million. ‘Ikale Tahi means “Sea Eagle” in Tongan – though there are no sea eagles that inhabit Tonga – the animal symbolizes courage and Take former All Black Charles Piutau who last played for the All Blacks in 2015. Recognised as one of the best backs in the Premiership, he was barred from playing for Tonga because he failed to meet eligibility regulations that required him to play for Tonga in a sevens Olympic qualification tournament

"This is a fundamental breach of trust and the partnership (with the players union) which up until now we valued highly," he said.

Several All Blacks have signed a letter detailing their concerns with selling.

Samoa will play Test rugby in New Zealand in July - just not against the All Blacks.

They'll face the Maori All Blacks in Auckland and a World Cup 2023 qualifier against Tonga in Hamilton, creating two double headers.

Any selected players not based in Australia or New Zealand will have to complete a fortnight's quarantine before being cleared for action.

ALL BLACKS JULY TESTS

July 3 - vs Tonga, Auckland (with Maori All Blacks v Samoa)

July 10 - vs Fiji, Dunedin

July 17 - vs Fiji, Hamilton (with Tonga v Samoa)

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