Maori to hit the road again

Thu, 30 Aug 2012 08:00
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The New Zealand Maori team will play Canada and an England 'Championship XV' in a three-match tour in November.

The New Zealand Maori team will play Canada and an England 'Championship XV' in a three-match tour in November.

The other game will be against nine-time English champions Leicester Tigers.

The Championship XV will be made up of English qualified players only, England's Director of Professional Rugby Rob Andrew said. The team will be coached by Bedford Blues mentor Mike Rayer.

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 Under-20, respectively.

New Zealand Rugby Union Chief Executive Steve Tew said the tour, running at the same time as the All Blacks will be in the Northern Hemisphere, reflected New Zealand's "commitment to a meaningful programme for the Maori".

The Maori tour has been included in a wider programme of November fixtures organised by the International Rugby Board for Tier Two nations to ensure they have regular high-level competition.

"These matches will be key to increased competitiveness on the global stage and at the World Cup," IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said.

"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 World Cup."   

The Maori team, drawn from New Zealand's indigenous population, have a reputation for open, running rugby and in recent years have chalked up home wins against the British and Irish Lions, England and Ireland.

Canada’s performance in the 2011 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 Two nations continue to develop on the world stage.

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 twelve clubs.”

Maori schedule:
Tuesday, November 13: v Leicester Tigers, Welford Road - Kick-off: 19.30
Saturday, November 17: v RFU Championship XV, Castle Park - Kick-off: 12.05
Friday, November 23: v Canada, Oxford University Sports Centre - Kick-off: 19.30