FMG Stadium will turn black and red in 2019 as the All Blacks return to Hamilton for the first time in three years, in a one off test against Tonga ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
At a photo opportunity at FMG Stadium in Hamilton this morning a group representing Tongans in Hamilton broke into an impromptu dance and song as Hamilton Mayor Andrew King and rugby officials celebrated the big fixture.
The three time Rugby World Cup winners will clash with Tonga on September 7 2019, with a return to the tradition of afternoon rugby, with a 2:35pm kick off.
The match will be the final hit-out before the teams travels to Japan for the 2019 World Cup.
Clive Bourne, from the Tongan community in Hamilton, said it would be a great occasion not just for the community, but for the city.
“It is a great thing for rugby, to have everyone cheer for the spirit of rugby, and the spirit of Polynesia,” Mr Bourne said.
“In Hamilton, 90 per cent of the people in Hamilton are Tongan,” he joked.
He said he expects the stands to be filled with the red of Tonga, not just from Hamilton, but from all over the country.
Mr Bourne said that whatever the result, the community will come out as winners on the day.
“It does not matter, as long as we play and enjoy. It is the spirit of living and enjoying life, that is the Tongan way.”
“Lots of kava drinking and the cooking of pigs in celebration, even after the game, no matter what the score.”
He said that it does not matter who he supports as there are Tongans playing for the All Blacks and All Blacks playing for Tonga.
“We are one rugby nation.”
Hamilton Mayor Andrew King said it had been too long since Hamilton had an All Blacks game, and called it the perfect send off for the team before they head to compete in the World Cup.
“We should be having one game every year, it is just exciting to have us back in the game again,” Mr King said.
“I understand the All Blacks may be staying in our town for a few days to train, it will fill up all our hotels and restaurants.”
“The match itself is secondary to what this will do for our city.”
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said in a statement Tonga was invited to play in this fixture, as it allows both teams a way to prepare for the World Cup.
“We invited Tonga to play this fixture which we saw as an important part of the All Blacks’ preparation, but also a great way for Tonga to prepare for Rugby World Cup 2019. We envisage this will be an opportunity for fans to provide a colourful send-off for both teams,” Tew said.
The announcement of the All Blacks v Tonga clash follows confirmation the Tongan national sevens rugby team has secured the final place in the 2019 edition of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament to be held at FMG Stadium Waikato over Auckland Anniversary Weekend in January 2019.
Fans who buy a ticket to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in Hamilton in January will also have an opportunity to purchase tickets for the All Blacks Test ahead of public sales.
Two ways for fans to guarantee a ticket to the All Blacks v Tonga Test match before public sales are; either purchase a Chiefs’ season membership and HSBC NZ Sevens package or, purchase All Blacks Hospitality or All Blacks Tours packages.