Waikato confirm pre-season Ranfurly Shield challenges

Waikato will take on Heartland Championship provinces Horowhenua-Kapiti and East Coast in pre-season Ranfurly Shield challenges later this year.

East Coast gains a mandatory shield challenge as the current holders of the Meads Cup, while Horowhenua-Kapiti was chosen out of several applications from other Heartland provinces.

The first challenge for 2013 will be Horowhenua-Kapiti on Wednesday July 17 at Campbell Park in Morrinsville. Assuming a successful first up defence Waikato will then head to Ruatoria for the East Coast challenge on Tuesday July 30.

Horowhenua-Kapiti last challenged for the Ranfurly Shield in 2007, while East Coast last had a crack at the Log o' Wood in 2002.

WRU Chief Executive Graham Bowen said the Waikato Rugby Union is delighted to be able to take the Ranfurly Shield to communities both in and out of the Waikato province.

"Morrinsville is a proud Waikato rugby town and we are very excited about holding a shield challenge there. We know the town will come out in force to support the match and experience this one-off occasion," Bowen said.

The match will continue Waikato's tradition of taking pre-season matches to the wider Waikato community after successful games in Te Awamutu and Tokoroa in recent seasons.

The trip to Ruatoria will likely coincide with a pre-season camp for the Waikato team ahead of their 2013 ITM Cup campaign.

"The East Coast match will be a great experience for our players and we are looking forward to taking the shield on the road to the home of the 2012 Meads Cup champions," Bowen said.

Should Waikato retain the Ranfurly Shield through the pre-season they are scheduled to face challenges from Northland, Auckland, Taranaki, Wellington and Otago during the ITM Cup. The draw for the 2013 ITM Cup is yet to be announced.


- Hamilton News

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