Ireland’s five-game schedule on this summer’s tour to New Zealand has been finalised with confirmation by the NZRU of two midweek fixtures against the Māori All Blacks.
The showpiece remains the three-Test Series between Andy Farrell’s Triple Crown winners and the All Blacks, which begins in Auckland at Eden Park on Saturday, July 2. Further clashes are set for Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin seven days later before the final encounter in Wellington’s Sky Stadium on July 16.
Ireland will play the Māori All Blacks ahead of the first and third Tests, kicking off their tour at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton on Wednesday June 29 (8.05am Irish time) while the second game falls between the second and final Tests at Sky Stadium in Wellington on Tuesday, July 12 (8.05am Irish time).
Farrell was keen to have the additional games in order to give crucial experience to his wider squad one year out from the 2023 World Cup in France and he is expected to announce a travelling party of more than 40 players for the five-game tour next month.
“The Māori All Blacks will provide a stern test of our squad strength and depth,” Farrell said in a press release announcing the two midweek fixtures.
“They are effectively a Test match side that have a proud tradition and impressive record of results.
“This tour is a huge opportunity for the group to develop and test itself against the best in their own backyard. Playing five games against such quality opposition will be of huge benefit to the group as we tour for the first time since 2018.”
Ireland have played the Māori All Blacks only twice before, losing both times. In 1888 the New Zealand Natives won 13-4 at Lansdowne Road while the Māori All Blacks edged Declan Kidney’s 2010 tourists 31-28 at Rotorua International Stadium.
The last European side to play the Māori All Blacks was a British & Irish Lions side captained by Peter O’Mahony in 2017.
The tourists, who also started with Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton at half-back, Tadhg Furlong and Sean O’Brien in the forward pack and Iain Henderson and Jack McGrath among the replacements, ran out 32-17 winners against a side featuring James Lowe at full-back.
Lowe had the previous November featured in a touring side defeated 27-14 by Munster at Thomond Park.
Of the upcoming fixtures with Ireland, Māori All Blacks Head Coach Clayton McMillan said: “We look forward to welcoming Ireland, their players, management, and fans to Aotearoa, sharing our respective cultures, and celebrating our rich histories through rugby.
“Our rivalry goes back more than 100 years and that will only add to the occasion. To play the world’s fourth-ranked team in a two-match series is an exciting prospect and we expect both games to be huge challenges.”
All kick-offs at 8:05am Irish time
Māori All Blacks v IRELAND FMG Stadium, Hamilton, Wednesday June 29
All Blacks v IRELAND Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday July 2
All Blacks v IRELAND Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday July 9
Māori All Blacks v IRELAND SKY Stadium, Wellington, Tuesday July 12
All Blacks v IRELAND SKY Stadium, Wellington, Saturday July 16