Ireland will play two midweek matches against the Maori All Blacks on their mid-year rugby tour of New Zealand, it has been announced, creating an intense fixture list of five games in the space of 18 days.
The Irish will open the tour against the Maori side in Hamilton on Wednesday, 29 June, three days out from the first Test against the All Blacks at Auckland’s Eden Park.
A second midweek match is scheduled for Wellington on Tuesday, 12 July, falling between the second and third Tests. Ireland plan to select an enlarged squad to cater for the additional fixtures.
The Maori All Blacks have an impressive history against international teams, including wins over Ireland in their only two meetings.
In 1888, a ‘New Zealand Natives’ team beat the Irish 13-4 in Dublin while the Maori won a 31-28 thriller at Rotorua International Stadium in 2010.
Ireland coach Andy Farrell said he anticipated a stern challenge in both midweek matches. “They are effectively a Test-match side that have a proud tradition and impressive record of results,” he said.
“This tour is a huge opportunity for the group to develop and test itself against the best in their own backyard. Playing five games against such quality opposition will be of huge benefit to the group as we tour for the first time since 2018.”
© Agence France-Presse