Kiwis return home, in June with a blockbuster against Tonga.
The New Zealand Rugby League confirmed the match in the middle of the year after reports of plans surfaced last month.
The Kiwi Test will take place on Saturday, June 25 at the Mt Smart Stadium, and on the same night the Kiwi Fern will meet with the Tongan women’s team.
Kiwi has not been seen for more than two years, in the last game against the UK in Christchurch on November 9, 2019.
A double header in Auckland will be held eight days before the long-awaited return of the Warriors home, in a match against the Tigers on July 3.
Privately, NRL clubs aren’t thrilled with the script – as it will divert some attention from their marketing and advertising efforts – but overall it will be a great incentive to play.
Kiwi desperately needs time together in camp before this year’s Rugby World Cup.
There is still hope that they will be able to hold some preparatory game before the flight to England, but it will be difficult to organize, as a little more than two weeks between the NRL grand final (October 2) and the start of the World Cup (October 15)).
It will also be a chance to continue the growing rivalry against the Pacific team. The men in the red famous upset “Kiwi” with a score of 28-22 in Hamilton at the 2017 World Cup before “Kiwi” won with a score of 34-14 in June 2019.
The spectacle of the Auckland League coincides with the Mainland – the New Year of the Maori – and falls on the first holiday weekend.
That same night, there will also be Pacific trials through Tasman: Samoa will face the Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea against Fiji at Campbelltown Stadium.
NZRL general manager Greg Peters said they had worked with the NRL “some time” to move two matches to Auckland.
“What a wonderful feeling when our ferns and kiwis are back in the park again, and even better at home,” Peters said. “Celebrating the Matariki weekend with an international test double title that unites our fans and communities in celebration is special.”
He added that the NZRL is aiming to set a new world record for crowd attendance at the Women’s Rugby League match, which currently stands at 18,000.
The game is also entertainment for Tonga, after they achieved victories over the UK and Australia when they last met in November 2019.
“This opportunity has been around for a long time, so we can’t wait to meet Kiwi again,” Tonga coach Christian Wolfe said. “It will be an important match for us as we strive to unite the team as well as give some of our young players a chance to represent their country before the World Cup.”
The Kiwi Ferns have not met Hakul Tonga since the 2008 World Rugby Championship, where the New Zealand team won a landslide victory. The last match of the “Ferns” was the victory over Feta Samoa with a score of 28-8 in 2020, when Hakula Tonga defeated the small country of Niue with a score of 66: 8 in the same year.