WELLINGTON, April 4 (Reuters) - The All Blacks are almost certain to play a test match before their first game against the British and Irish Lions in June with Samoa looming as the likely opponent, New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said on Tuesday.
Tew had said last week that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had asked for the possibility of a match being scheduled for his side to shake out any rust that typifies the team in their first test of each year.
“In 2005 we played Fiji beforehand and that set us up for a very good first test performance in Christchurch,” Tew told New Zealand’s Sky Sports ‘The Breakdown’ programme on Tuesday.
“Steve and (assistant coach) Ian (Foster) are definitely keen to do something pre-Lions (and)...the option of Samoa is something we are definitely looking at and working our way through.”
The New Zealand Herald had reported last week any possible game would probably be held on June 16 in Auckland as part of a double-header with Wales playing Tonga at the same venue after they moved their clash from Nuku‘alofa over concerns for the safety of the pitch at the National Stadium.
Tew added that he was looking forward to the Lions tour and while there was criticism from British pundits about the itinerary - they play all five Super Rugby sides, the Maori All Blacks and three tests - the Lions had driven that decision-making.
“The Lions asked for a tougher itinerary than they got in Australia in 2013,” Tew said.
“They wanted to play the five Super Rugby sides. They deliberately chose to play the Maori All Blacks game the week before the first test. They got exactly what they wanted.”
Tew added NZR were discussing the possibility of adding a midweek fixture to their matches against the Barbarians, Scotland, Wales and France on their end-of-season tour in November, having already turned down the opportunity to add a test against England.
French media had reported on Monday the All Blacks would play a second game against Guy Noves’ side, but Tew denied that.
”We won’t be playing France in another test match midweek,“ Tew said. ”There is a possibility of another midweek game in France but again there is still work to be done.
“The coaches are looking for additional matches in a softer environment which is why the Barbarians game has been added to the schedule. An opportunity to play a couple of games that does not have the same intensity as a test match is attractive.” (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; editing by Mark Heinrich)