- Maori All Blacks to face Leicester, Canada and RFU Championship XV
- Bedford Blues' Mike Rayer to coach the side
Photo: Getty Images
The Maori All Blacks will head to the Northern Hemisphere in November to take on Leicester Tigers, Canada and a RFU Championship select XV.
Hosted by the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the Maori All Blacks will arrive in England on November 7, before facing nine-time English champions Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on Tuesday, November 13.
The squad will then travel further North to Castle Park, Doncaster, where they will take on a RFU Championship select XV on Saturday 17, headed up by Bedford Blues Coach Mike Rayer. Finally, the New Zealanders will play Canada at Oxford University Sports Centre Friday November 23.
The RFU Championship XV will comprise entirely of English Qualified Players (EQP), and will take place during a fallow week for the second tier clubs. Supporting Rayer in his Head Coach role are Liam Middleton (Bristol Rugby) and Diccon Edwards (Leeds Carnegie), both of whom have enjoyed international experience with Zimbabwe Sevens and England U20, respectively.
New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) Chief Executive Officer Steve Tew outlined the importance of the tour and 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.”
Honour to host Maori All Blacks – Andrew
Rob Andrew, RFU Professional Rugby Director, spoke about the honour of hosting a team with such rugby heritage and said the game against an RFU Championship select reflects the growing quality in the second tier of English Rugby
“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 twelve clubs.”
The tour is part of a wider programme of November fixtures for Tier 2 supported by the International Rugby Board (IRB) 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 in the 2011 Rugby World Cup – which saw the North America men 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 2 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 and facilitating an annual international competition schedule for our Tier 2 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."
Maori All Blacks UK Tour
Leicester Tigers, Tuesday, November 13, Welford Road. KO 1930
RFU Championship XV, Saturday, November 17, Castle Park. KO 1205
Canada, Friday November 23, Oxford University Sports Centre. KO 1930