Kiwis replace French visit with England tour

KIWIS CHALLENGE: Isaac Luke performs a haka before a rugby league Four Nations match.
KIWIS CHALLENGE: Isaac Luke performs a haka before a rugby league Four Nations match.

The Kiwis will tour England at the end of next year, playing three tests.

The English tour replaces a planned visit to New Zealand by France.

That tour has fallen over, though New Zealand Rugby League hoped to include a test against France on their northern trip.

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Kiwi and English bosses believed the tour would be a success, building on last year's World Cup that saw New Zealand pip England in a dramatic semifinal with Shaun Johnson's late try and conversion putting his team into the title match and breaking English hearts.

"We're excited to return to the United Kingdom, which is still buzzing from the success of that World Cup tournament," NZRL chief executive Phil Holden said in announcing the tour.

"It will give us another chance to build on the intense rivalry between these two sides and will provide the Kiwis with another important stepping stone as we build towards the next World Cup in 2017, co-hosted here and in Australia."

It also keeps momentum in a building rivalry between England and New Zealand. They will clash in this year's Four Nations tournament in Dunedin and will meet again in the 2016 Four Nations.

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney is delighted to see his programme building ahead of the next World Cup.

"Whenever we've toured there in the past, it has proved very challenging in terms of facing England on home soil," Kearney said.

 "The World Cup was really the first time we'd won there in quite some time.

"When you look at the way their players have continued to develop in the NRL, you can see it will be a real contest and vital towards our preparation for the next World Cup."

Holden said New Zealand remained committed to helping the French game as league looks to build its game at the top level. That meant trying to play a test in France at the end of next year was a priority.

 "We must continue to engage and nurture France if we're serious about growing the game internationally," Holden said.

"Facing them on home soil would present quite a different challenge for the Kiwis and that can only be positive for the international game overall, and for France's development and preparation in the long term."


France's disappointment would be masked by New Zealand's delight.

The Kiwis got a chance to keep playing at the expense of arch rivals Australia.

Originally the 2015 time slot was to be filled by a tour south by the Great Britain Lions, but Australian bosses wanted to give their players a full season off.

That left the International Federation seeking alternatives.

There would be potential challenges away from the field. While the tour dates were yet to be confirmed, they could operate in the shadow of rugby's World Cup which England was due to host next year with a final set down for October 31.

And there would certainly be a challenge on the pitch. The last time New Zealand toured England was in 2007. Gary Kemble was the coach and his Kiwis were humbled 3-0 against a host team that competed as Great Britain.

That was a catalyst for change with Kearney stepping in and New Zealand winning the World Cup the next year.