Pacific Islands to play double-header in Auckland before RWC
The second edition of the Pasifika Challenge will take place at Eden Park on August 31 featuring a doubleheader between Pacific Island teams and the New Zealand Heartland XV.
Titled the ‘Pasifika Challenge II: The Road to Japan’, it’s a follow up from the inaugural event in 2017 which saw Samoa take on the All Blacks and Tonga go head to head with Wales.
Veteran commentator Ken Laban says hosting the event in Auckland makes Pacific Island rugby more accessible for New Zealand based fans.
“The financial and travel would make it very difficult for them to see the teams so putting this competition on here in Auckland is significant for our Pasifika communities.”
While the 2017 event was treated as a warm up for the All Blacks before the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, this time the focus is on giving Pacific teams more game time before the world cup in Japan later this year.
Fijian halfback Frank Lomani says it gives his team more time to build camaraderie as they continue to face the challenge of uniting players from all over the world.
“I think this is a good opportunity for us to get our combinations together because for us we come from different clubs”
“So when we come [together] for a short period of time, for us it’s going to take time for us to mingle and get our game plan together.”
Tonga and Samoa will play fixtures the following week against the All Blacks and Australia respectively, while Fiji and the NZ Maori will clash in a two match series next month.
The three teams will also take part in the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup which will pit them against each other as well as Canada, Japan and the United States.