May 05, 2021
Fiji may meet New Zealand Rugby in two test matches in July for an historic celebration of Pacific Islands rugby while its expansion plans for the Super game in 2022.
This after the late withdrawal of perennial Six Nations wooden-spooners Italy from their scheduled two-test tour to save their July test window.
Their withdrawal has not been officially confirmed yet, but Stuff.com.nz revealed NZ Rugby is well advanced in talks around an alternative schedule.
Alongside the back-to-back tests, Samoa is also added to the three-game window to create a special moment in history for the Pasifika nations.
This would also be the first time the All Blacks would have played an entire home series against Pacific Islands opposition.
The original schedule had the All Blacks hosting Italy twice over the first two Saturdays in July, followed by a single test against Fiji.
The Pacific theme to the July window might have been forced on NZ Rugby somewhat, with alternatives thin on the ground because of the pandemic and Lions tour, but it fits nicely with their intention to add an Auckland-based Moana Pasifika side and the Fijian Drua to Super Rugby from 2022.
Samoa shapes as the obvious opponent to sit alongside Fiji, with Tonga committed to World Cup qualifiers over that time-frame.
The All Blacks last faced Fiji in 2011 in Dunedin and Samoa in 2017 in Auckland ahead of the Lions tour.
The Rugby Championship looks set to play out mostly between New Zealand and Australia from August to October, with the possibility of Argentina’s clash against the Springboks taking place outside the trans-Tasman nations.
The All Blacks are set to open their campaign with a three-test Bledisloe Cup series against the Wallabies on consecutive Saturdays on August 7, 14 and 21. Two of those would also form part of the Rugby Championship. Wellington, Melbourne and Auckland have been mooted as the three likely venues, potentially in that order reports New Zealand Herald.
NZ Rugby boss Mark Robinson previously indicated there was a strong desire to stage the championship principally between the two nations and the recent trans-Tasman travel bubble, which allows free movement between the countries, has allowed it to become a reality.
The obvious intention is for Australia and New Zealand to host their respective tests against the Spring Boks and Pumas within their nations.
NZ Rugby would look to stage the Boks test – the 100th meeting between the two great rivals – at Eden Park, with the Pumas clash likely to be staged in Dunedin or Hamilton.
The Rugby Championship schedule is also set to be unveiled by Sanzaar within the next two weeks.
By Romeka Romena