All Blacks: Samoan born So'oialo ready for 'huge' night out

Using evasive skills that would impress any election year politician, the All Blacks jigged and weaved when the inevitable topic of playing rugby in the Pacific was raised today.

Tomorrow's test against Samoa here will be the 12th between the All Blacks and Pacific island opposition since 1984 - with all played on New Zealand or neutral soil.

The last visit to the islands was 24 years ago, a four-match tour of Fiji which culminated in a 45-0 drubbing of the hosts in Suva which wasn't awarded test status.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry made all the right noises today when asked if it was time for his team to return to the Pacific for a test or short tour.

His answer also echoed the main reason why such a visit isn't viable in the forseeable future given rugby's profit-driven nature and tight, structured calendar.

"It would be a good thing if we could. It's just a matter of fitting it into the international rugby programme," Henry said.

"All our tests we play, virtually, are International Rugby Board test matches apart from the odd one on the end of year tour which is there for obvious (financial) reasons."

Tests in New Zealand provide the hard-up island rugby unions with considerably more revenue than would a home test.

All Blacks No 8 Rodney So'oialo, captain tomorrow in place of the injured Richie McCaw, is among those players not keen on more overseas travel and struggled to be enthusiastic about test matches in the Pacific.

"That would be interesting. It would be a good opportunity for some of the guys who haven't been there," was the best he could muster.

He was more upbeat about the prospect of leading New Zealand against his native country in his 50th test.

Born in Moto'otua in 1979, his family shifted to Wellington five years later.

"It's going to be huge really. To get the honour of captaining the All Blacks, you don't get that honour very often. And to captain them against the team from where you were born is an even bigger honour," he said.

"I still have a lot of relatives back at home. I think they'll be supporting both teams."

He had spoken this week to older brother Steven, the experienced Samoan halfback who was one of several European-based players unable to get club clearance for this match.

Harlequins No 9 Steven hadn't given Rodney too much grief about "betraying" Samoa.

"We don't talk too much about rugby," Rodney said.

Their parents won't make the trip north from Wellington for the test for a typical Samoan reason.

"They're at home. My oldest child goes to school and school's very important to us. We feel that my daughter has to come first."

- NZPA

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