WELLINGTON: The All Blacks will prepare for the British and Irish Lions by playing Samoa as part of a Test double-header in Auckland that also features Tonga against Wales, New Zealand Rugby said Tuesday.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the match against the hard-tackling Samoans would give the All Blacks a hit-out before the first Test against the Lions on June 24 at Eden Park.
The Tonga-Wales match on June 16 had already been moved to the Auckland venue after facilities in Nuku’alofa were deemed substandard, so the NZR said it made sense to stage the All Blacks-Samoa match there as well.
Hansen said the Friday night double-header would be an attractive proposition for fans.
“It’s going to be a wonderful evening where you’ve got Pacific rugby on show and Welsh rugby and New Zealand rugby,” he said.
“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 Pacific rugby.”
Auckland has a large Pacific islander population and Tongan supporters in particular turned out in force during the 2011 Word Cup, creating a festive atmosphere.
New Zealand will also be awash with tens of thousands of travelling Lions fans, many of whom will be keen to add another rugby fixture to their schedule.
The Tonga-Wales Test will be staged first, followed by New Zealand-Samoa later in the evening.
The All Blacks have not lost at Eden Park since a 23-20 defeat to France in 1994. -- AFP