Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: NZ-Samoa test in Apia likely next July

All Blacks’ match against tough opponents on their home ground will form part of intense preparations for World Cup

The possibility of an All Blacks test in Apia has gained public support. Photo / NZPA
The possibility of an All Blacks test in Apia has gained public support. Photo / NZPA

The All Blacks will play Samoa for the first time in Apia next year as both nations embark on their World Cup preparations.

For some time the countries have been trying to reach this historic deal and the Herald understands an agreement has been reached to stage the test, probably in late July.

They have played five tests since their first duel at Eden Park in 1993 when the All Blacks were pushed hard before winning 35-13.

Each subsequent test has been played in New Zealand but the haka will challenge the siva tau in Apia next season once the Super 15 tournament finishes.

That competition will continue through June because there are no in-bound tours and with the All Blacks looking to get in some match play before the abbreviated Rugby Championship, it's understood they have agreed to travel and play at Apia Park.

The ground has a capacity of 15,000 but it's likely that will increase significantly for such an historic occasion as an All Black visit.

When the New Zealand and Samoan Prime Ministers met in Apia early last month to celebrate the nation's 52nd birthday, public comment intensified about the nations meeting at the same venue on the rugby field.

In a joint press conference Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Dr Sailele Malielegaoi, who is also the chairman for Samoa Rugby Union, and NZ Prime Minister John Key confirmed negotiations had intensified between the rugby unions.

Tuilaepa was very positive and hoped a test could be played before next year's World Cup.

"The All Blacks have agreed to play on our soil and we are negotiating a good time to suit the players," he said.

The NZRU could not be reached for comment last night but sources said the deal had been ratified.

Pressure for a test in Samoa intensified after the All Blacks' US test en route to Europe was announced.

Tuilaepa acknowledged it was expensive for a test to be played in Apia but felt the time was right. "Our boys have to come and shiver in the cold in New Zealand playing the All Blacks and so it's time for them to come here and enjoy the sun," he said.

At the time, Key said there had been positive signals from the NZRU about a test in Samoa and he supported that move if they could find a suitable date. "They're obviously keen to come, and I think that's right," he said.

- NZ Herald

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