The Ranfurly Shield will be on the line when Waikato plays Heartland Championship provinces Horowhenua-Kapiti and East Coast in pre-season 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 from several applications from other Heartland provinces.
The first challenge will be against Horowhenua-Kapiti on July 17 at Campbell Park, Morrinsville. Assuming a successful defence Waikato then heads to Ruatoria for the East Coast challenge on July 30.
Horowhenua-Kapiti last challenged for the Ranfurly Shield in 2007, while East Coast last had a crack in 2002.
Chief executive Graham Bowen says the Waikato Rugby Union is delighted to be able to take the shield to communities in and out of the province.
"Morrinsville is a proud Waikato rugby town and we are 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 says.
The trip to Ruatoria will likely coincide with a pre-season camp for the team ahead of its ITM Cup campaign.
"The East Coast match will be a great experience for our players," Bowen says.
Safely through the pre-season games, Waikato is scheduled to face challenges from Northland, Auckland, Taranaki, Wellington and Otago.