May 8, 2017 / 11:17 PM / 3 months ago

NZ to face Samoa in Pasifika doubleheader before Lions test

FILE PHOTO: France Rugby - France v New Zealand All Blacks - Stade de France, Saint-Denis near Paris, France, 26/11/2016. New Zealand players during the match.Gonzalo Fuentes

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand will prepare for the first test against the British & Irish Lions with a game against Samoa in Auckland on June 16 as part of a Pasifika doubleheader straight after Wales face Tonga, New Zealand Rugby said on Tuesday.

The All Blacks play the Lions in the first test at Eden Park on June 24 and the Samoa match had long been discussed as a chance for Steve Hansen's side to work on their combinations before the series begins.

Wales's test against Tonga had been moved from Nuku'alofa after concerns over the state of the pitch at the National Stadium.

"It's great that we're going to play Samoa," Hansen said in a statement. "Along with Tonga and Wales it's going to be a wonderful evening where you've got Pasifika rugby on show and Welsh rugby and New Zealand rugby.

"It allows us to fill a need for ourselves as we need a game to prepare for the Lions and also give something back to Pasifika rugby."

New Zealand have typically been slow starters in their international seasons and Hansen had asked NZR to schedule a game in order to ensure they were not under prepared before they faced Warren Gatland's side.

The All Blacks used a similar tactic ahead of the 2005 Lions series when they played Fiji in Albany.

The Wales-Tonga game will kick off at 5:30 p.m. (0530 GMT) before the All Blacks play Samoa at 8 p.m.

The Lions play the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua on June 17.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ken Ferris

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