The Maori All Blacks are coming home after five years and the New Zealand Barbarians also stand to gain some valuable exposure.

The Maori will have two worthy opponents for their short, two-match programme in July.
They will play Fiji for the first time in seven years in Suva on Saturday July 11 and return to New Zealand to take on what is likely to be a strong NZ Barbarians at Eden Park a week later.

The Maori All Blacks last played Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup in 2008, winning 11-7 in Lautoka. The July match will be the Maori All Blacks' 29th against Fiji, having won 19 matches, lost seven and drawn twice. The two sides first met in 1938 in Suva.

The Maori All Blacks last played the New Zealand Barbarians in 2010 as part of their centenary series, winning 37-31. July's match will mark just the third encounter between the two sides since 2002.

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Many fans will recall the stirring Maori victories over Ireland and England in Rotorua and Napier that rounded out that memorable series, Hosea Gear's hat-trick against England the individual highlight. Halfback Chris Smylie and lock Hayden Triggs are two survivors from 2010 that may turn out again in 2015.

"It's great news that the Maori All Blacks will again be taking on international opposition in 2015," said New Zealand Maori Rugby board chairman Wayne Peters, himself a member of the Barbarians club.

"We're very excited to be returning to Fiji where we have enjoyed a wonderful rivalry over 77 years. This match will be a great celebration of the proud rugby history we share and again serve to underline the strong ties between Pacific rugby and New Zealand rugby."

The Maori All Blacks play Fiji three days after the historic test in Apia between the All Blacks and Manu Samoa.

Maori All Blacks coach Colin Cooper said he was looking forward to assembling this unique side again.

"Fiji will be tough opponents and will be looking to turn in a top performance as part of their preparations for the Pacific Nations Cup and Rugby World Cup later in the year. This will be a real challenge for the boys and we will need to be on top of our game.

"The Maori All Blacks are a key part of New Zealand Rugby's high performance programme and this tour again provides an important opportunity for many players to prove themselves at the international level."

The Barbarians, who will wear their traditional scarlet jersey, foster schools rugby through their national club, based out of Auckland. The club welcomes this fixture, as part of their strategic plan is to play more high profile, first-class fixtures. The team for the match will be likely made up of several top players on the cusp of All Blacks Rugby World Cup selection. The All Blacks themselves open their Rugby Championship campaign the night before in Christchurch against Argentina.

"This is the biggest match played by the New Zealand Barbarians since the 2010 clash against the same opponents. We all recall what a fine occasion that was in Whangarei, with some open, running rugby in true Barbarians and Maori style, from both sides," says New Zealand Barbarians President Bryan Williams.

"It is appropriate that this match will take place at Eden Park. The Barbarians have their clubrooms here, high in the ASB Stand, and the members and their guests will be able to see some top quality players, many of whom are trying to force their way into the All Blacks' RWC squad. It is also many years since either side have played at this venue, which will add further spice to the occasion."

Williams himself played for the Barbarians in one of their last big games at Eden Park, scoring two tries in a 17-12 defeat to Auckland in 1982. They have played just once at Eden Park since then, in 1985 when the Barbarians, led by Jock Hobbs, lost 31-10 to Auckland. Counties No 8 Alan Dawson scored the sole Baabaas try.

The July 18 game, originally flagged for Pukekohe's ECOLight Stadium, will mark the Barbarians' first first-class fixture since that 2010 clash against the Maori.

The Maori have not played on Eden Park since a 22-9 loss to the great Auckland side of 1990, though a 1981 Maori Invitation XV did draw 20-all with the Barbarians at Eden Park.

Maori All Blacks in July
Saturday July 11 v Fiji, National Stadium, Suva, kickoff 3pm
Saturday July 18 v New Zealand Barbarians, Eden Park, Auckland, 7.35pm