The Maori All Blacks, coached by the former All Black, Japan and Maori flanker Jamie Joseph, will head to the northern hemisphere in November to take on Leicester Tigers, Canada and a RFU Championship XV.
Hosted by the Rugby Football Union, the Maori All Blacks will arrive in England on 7 November before facing nine-time English champions Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on Tuesday, 13 November.
The squad will then travel further north to Castle Park in Doncaster where they will take on a RFU Championship select XV, headed up by Bedford Blues coach Mike Rayer, that weekend. Finally, the New Zealanders will play Canada at Oxford University Sports Centre on Friday, 23 November.
The RFU Championship XV will comprise entirely English qualified players, and will take place during a fallow week for the second tier clubs. Supporting Rayer in his head coach role are Bristol Rugby's Liam Middleton and Leeds Carnegie's Diccon Edwards, both of whom have enjoyed international experience with Zimbabwe Sevens and England Under 20 respectively.
Speaking about the tour, New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) Chief Executive Steve Tew said: “The Maori All Blacks have been an important part of New Zealand’s rugby history and this UK tour reflects a NZRU commitment to a meaningful programme for the Maori All Blacks.”
The tour is part of a wider programme of November fixtures for Tier Two Unions supported by the International Rugby Board to ensure that these nations have access to an annual high-level competition schedule within the Rugby World Cup cycle. The full programme will be announced shortly.
Canada’s performance at Rugby World Cup 2011 – which saw the Canucks beat Tonga – attracted an unprecedented number of supporters, peaking at nearly 39,000 against France. The upcoming programme will help capture and build that support as the Tier Two nations continue to develop on the world stage.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "This is an exciting development for the global Game. The IRB is committed to facilitating an annual international competition schedule for our Tier Two Unions and these matches will be key to increased competitiveness on the global stage and at Rugby World Cup. I would like to thank the RFU and the NZRU for their support.
"There will be an unprecedented number of international fixtures across the UK in November, which will give sports fans a taste of what to expect in 2015 when England hosts the world's top 20 nations for Rugby World Cup."
Following the announcement, RFU Professional Rugby Director Rob Andrew commented: “We are honoured to be hosting the Maori All Blacks in November. The three fixtures will provide a broad spectrum of challenges for the touring side, with both tiers of professional rugby in England represented and an international side in Canada.
“As well as facing Premiership giants Leicester Tigers, who will no doubt have a roaring support at Welford Road, a RFU Championship XV will form to take on the Maori All Blacks in a first for the competition. Reflecting the growth of the second tier, the team will comprise the best of English qualified players in the RFU Championship thanks to the commitment and support from all 12 clubs.”
Maori All Blacks UK Tour
v Leicester Tigers - Tuesday, 13 November @ Welford Road - KO 19:30
v RFU Championship XV - Saturday, 17 November @ Castle Park, Doncaster - KO 12:05
v Canada - Friday, 23 November @ Oxford University Sports Centre - KO 19:30
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