The Maori All Blacks will play Fiji for the first time in seven years as part of a two match series in July, New Zealand Rugby confirmed on Tuesday.
The team will play Fiji at the National Stadium in Suva on Saturday, 11 July and return to New Zealand to take on the Barbarians at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday, 18 July.
The Maori All Blacks last played Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup in 2008, winning 11-7 in Lautoka. The two sides first met in 1938 in Suva and have played each other 28 times since. The Maori All Blacks have won 19 matches, lost seven and drawn twice.
The Maori All Blacks last played the New Zealand Barbarians in 2010 as part of the centenary series winning 37-31.
“It’s great news that the Maori All Blacks will again be taking on international opposition in 2015,” New Zealand Maori Rugby Board Chairman Wayne Peters told allblacks.com
“We’re very excited to be returning to Fiji where we’ve enjoyed a wonderful rivalry over 77 years. This match will be a great celebration of the proud rugby history we share and again underlines the strong ties between Pacific rugby and New Zealand rugby.”
The Maori All Blacks play Fiji three days after the historic Test in Apia between the All Blacks and Manu Samoa.
“This match is guaranteed entertainment for Fiji, come July, and we are delighted to once again host the Maori All Blacks,” said Fiji Rugby’s Chief Executive Radrodro Tabualevu.
“The side will be filled with Super Rugby players so they will be a very good team.”
The Maori All Blacks last played in Suva in 1996.
“This game will have a lot of history behind it as the Maori All Blacks were the first rugby team to play at the then, newly renovated National Stadium just before the 1979 South Pacific Games. That team was captained by famous All Black prop Billy Bush,” added Tabualevu.
Maori All Blacks coach Colin Cooper is looking forward to assembling the team again.
“Fiji will be tough opponents and will be looking to turn in a top performance as part of their preparations for the Pacific Nations Cup and Rugby World Cup later in the year," he said.
"This’ll be a real challenge for the boys and we’ll need to be on top of our game.
“The Maori All Blacks are a key part of New Zealand Rugby’s high performance programme.
“This tour provides an important opportunity for many players to further develop their skills and prove themselves at the international level.”
The New Zealand Barbarians welcomed confirmation of what will be just the third match between the two sides.
"This is the biggest match played by the New Zealand Barbarians since our 2010 clash," said New Zealand Barbarians club President Bryan Williams.
We all recall what a fine occasion that was in Whangarei, with some open, running rugby in true Barbarians and Maori style.
"It’s appropriate that this match will take place at Eden Park.
"The Barbarians have their clubrooms here, high in the ASB Stand, and the members and their guests will be able to see some top quality players, many of whom will be trying to make the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad.
"It’s also many years since either side has played at this venue, which will add further spice to the occasion."
Maori All Blacks 2015 matches:
Saturday, 11 July v Fiji, ANZ National Stadium, Suva
Saturday, 18 July v New Zealand Barbarians, Eden Park, Auckland