International Rugby
New Zealand Maori announce tour of UK
ESPN Staff
August 30, 2012
The New Zealand Maori perform their traditional Haka before kick off against England, McLean Park, Napier,  New Zealand, June 23, 2010
The New Zealand Maori claimed a famous victory over an England XV in Napier in 2010 © Getty Images

The Maori All Blacks will tackle Leicester Tigers, Canada and a RFU Championship Select XV on a three-game tour of the UK in November.

The New Zealand-based side, that claimed famous victories over Ireland and England during their centenary season in 2010, will arrive in England at the beginning of November and will tackle nine-time English champions Leicester in their opening game at Welford Road on Tuesday, November 13.

The squad will then travel north to take on a RFU Championship Select XV, headed up by Bedford Blues coach Mike Rayer, on Saturday, November 17 and finally Canada at Oxford University Sports Centre on 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 with Liam Middleton (Bristol Rugby) and Diccon Edwards (Leeds Carnegie) set to assist Rayer.

Speaking about the forthcoming 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 2 sides 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 in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, that included a solitary victory over Tonga, attracted an unprecedented number of supporters, peaking at nearly 39,000 against France. The upcoming programme is hoping to 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."

Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: "Welford Road has always attracted big rugby names and top-quality touring opposition, and we're looking forward to the arrival of the Maori All Blacks squad. In the last few years we've been lucky enough to welcome South Africa, Australia and Argentina for fixtures against Leicester Tigers, and the Maori are very welcome additions to that list."

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 All Blacks UK Tour:
v Leicester Tigers, Tuesday, November 13, Welford Road (KO 1930)
v RFU Championship XV, Saturday, November 17, Castle Park (KO 1205)
v Canada, Friday, November 23, Oxford University Sports Centre (KO 1930)

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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