All Blacks, Fiji set to do battle

THE All Blacks will play Fiji at Dunedin's Carisbrook with proceeds from the test going to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.

The test will be played on Friday July 22, ahead of the Tri-Nations series.

Canterbury residents, including the Canterbury rugby community, will have the chance to buy tickets before they go on nationwide public sale.

The match will be a major fundraiser for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal, with all net profits from the match going to Christchurch.

All Blacks Coach Graham Henry said the test would be a key match for the All Blacks as the team prepares for the Investec Tri-Nations and then the Rugby World Cup.

"It's important that we have a game together as a team so that we can reignite and build on our combinations again and give the players the best possible preparation and kick-off to the season, so it's fantastic that Fiji has been confirmed," he said.

"We are also delighted that we can raise money for the people of Christchurch, who are still very much in the team's thoughts," Henry added.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said final confirmation of Fiji as the All Blacks' opponent had been delayed as the NZRU worked through issues relating to the New Zealand Government's travel restrictions on some Fijian citizens.

"The NZRU has not asked the New Zealand Government for any exemptions to the travel ban in place. The Fiji Rugby Union will field a competitive team within the parameters of the travel ban and see this Test as a major build-up for their Rugby World Cup campaign, while the Fijian Government has confirmed they have no objections to the team travelling to New Zealand for the match."

Tew said as well as the fundraising effort, a number of other initiatives were planned to show support for the people of Canterbury.

"Otago and Southland fans get priority access to Dunedin test tickets but we will also be offering the Canterbury rugby community and then all Canterbury residents the chance to buy tickets before they go on nationwide sale.

"We will also be looking to host representatives from the Canterbury earthquake rescue, recovery and relief teams to give them a break, a night out at the rugby and to thank them for all their efforts.

"We were keen to have the extra test in the South Island to give Christchurch residents and other South Islanders the chance to see the All Blacks in action this year so hopefully they get to do that and we can raise some money for Christchurch as well," Mr Tew added.

Tickets to the test will be available to the general public from TicketDirect from 9am on Monday 20 June on their website or by calling 0800 4 TICKET. Tickets will cost from $25 for a child and adult tickets will cost between $50 and $115.

Mr Tew said the NZRU had hoped to stage the match at the new Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin but the new ground would not be quite ready to host matches by then.

"But we are more than happy to return to Carisbrook for what will definitely be the last test at the famous ground. We will have to get (former All Black) Jeff Wilson back to replace the clump of turf he removed after last year's 'last' test!" he said.

The bulk of the funds raised at the test will go to the Government's Christchurch Earthquake Appeal, with a proportion also going to the All Blacks Earthquake Appeal for Christchurch Kids, which supports the work of the two All Blacks' official charities, KidsCan and Plunket, helping the youngest residents of Christchurch. A number of other fundraising initiatives are also being planned around the Test, with more details to be confirmed closer to the time.

The All Blacks have played Fiji eight times since 1974, with the last test in 2005 at North Harbour Stadium.

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