All Blacks: Steve Tew insists Tonga test will benefit NZ ahead of World Cup
29 November, 2018, 5:49 am
WELLINGTON (NEWSHUB) – New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew believes the scheduled test against Tonga will be the perfect match to help the All Blacks head into next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan in the best shape possible.
Due to the World Cup, there will only be three rounds of the Rugby Championship played, while the All Blacks will also have an extra Bledisloe Cup test against the Wallabies.
The All Blacks have Rugby Championship tests against South Africa in Wellington on July 27 and against Australia in Perth on August 10, while details of their away fixture against Argentina are still to be confirmed. They then host the Wallabies in the second and final Bledisloe in Auckland on August 17.
That leaves a likely five-week gap before their World Cup opener against South Africa on September 21, meaning squeezing in an extra test would be perfect.
The match against Tonga is locked in for September 7 at FMG Stadium in Waikato, with a kick-off time of 2:35pm.
“Steve [Hansen] and the coaches, as they did in 2015, thought we’d be a gallop short, so an extra game before Japan was ideal,” said Tew.
“Tonga were keen, and it gives us a chance to play a test match in New Zealand so we decided to go to Tonga where they might feel at home.
“The gap [between Rugby Championship and World Cup] is too long, as it was last time when we went to Apia to play Samoa.”
“This is all about getting the right preparation for the Rugby World Cup and it will be very good for the Tongan team also.”
The afternoon kick-off time gives times for both teams to manage recovery before they travel to Japan. Tonga departs for Japan the following day (Sunday) after the test, and the All Blacks the day after that (Monday).
The match will be the All Blacks’ sixth meeting with Tonga, having won all five previous clashes, with four of those being at World Cups.