New Zealand Rugby today confirmed the full schedule of six inbound Tests for 2014 with another mid-week match also being played during the Steinlager Series when England tours here for the first time since 2008.
The All Blacks take on England in the opening match of the Steinlager Series at Eden Park on 7 June which is sure to be a nail-biter after the heart-stopping Test during the Air New Zealand European Tour where New Zealand regained the Hillary Shield.
This is followed by Tests in Dunedin and Hamilton while England also plays the Crusaders in a mid-week match at AMI (Addington) Stadium in Christchurch on 17 June.
“We are very excited to be hosting England next year,” said New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew. “England have proven in recent matches with the All Blacks just how tough an opponent they are so we hope this series will be a huge draw card for fans.
“It’s great to be taking England to Dunedin. I am sure they have plenty of fond memories from their time there during Rugby World Cup where they played three matches. England and Argentina also had the privilege of being the first nations to enjoy the excellent facilities of Forsyth Barr Stadium during the opening weekend of the World Cup.
“England, like France last year, were keen to add a mid-week match to their itinerary so it’s great that we can provide them a high quality opponent in the Crusaders after the second Test in Dunedin. Given the heritage shared by England and Canterbury, this is sure to be a very special night.”
Christchurch will host a further international in 2015 as part of the Investec Rugby Championship with the opponent to be confirmed.
The Steinlager Series wraps up in Hamilton on 21 June which could well be the series decider.
“We expect Waikato fans will be there in numbers backing black as they did so well this year for the Argentina match despite the conditions that day,” said Tew.
“The final of Junior World Championship 2014 is also the night before at Eden Park on 20 June so fans in the Auckland and Waikato regions are in for an action packed weekend of top rugby."
The 2014 Investec Rugby Championship features Tests at Eden Park, Westpac Stadium and McLean Park in Napier.
“We are really pleased to be taking Test match rugby back to McLean Park which proved a great venue during Rugby World Cup 2011," said Tew. "The city warmly welcomed France, Canada and Japan for two matches during the Cup and fans turned out in force so I am sure they will turn it on again for our Argentinian visitors next year.”
The match will be the first All Blacks Test there since 1996 when they played Manu Samoa.
McLean Park will become the 27th stadium overall and the eighth in New Zealand to host a match in The Investec Rugby Championship/Tri-Nations history.
Auckland hosts Australia for the second Bledisloe Cup test on 23 August, a week after the first encounter for the season in Sydney. South Africa returns to Westpac Stadium for the final domestic match of the season on 13 September and their first visit to the capital since 2011.
“We have seen this year how fans in the Auckland and Wellington regions filled their respective grounds and we are hopeful of bumper crowds again next year for what will be terrific Test encounters,” said Tew.
The 2014 format remains consistent with previous years which means a repeat clash will once again take place in the final round at Johannesburg between the All Blacks and Springboks while the Wallabies visit Argentina later in the day to bring The Investec Rugby Championship to a close.
Kick-off times will be confirmed in early 2014, as will venues for Argentina’s home matches which are still subject to UAR approval.
The full 2014 Investec Rugby Championship draw can be found here.
Steinlager Series v England
7 June - Eden Park, Auckland
14 June - Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
(17 June - England v Crusaders - AMI (Addington) Stadium, Christchurch)
21 June - Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Investec Rugby Championship
23 August - Australia - Eden Park, Auckland
6 September - Argentina - McLean Park, Napier
13 September - South Africa -Westpac Stadium, Wellington