In another win for Pacific rugby, the All Blacks are reportedly set to take on Fiji and now Samoa in this year's July Test window after Italy pulled out from their scheduled tour.
Fairfax reports the Azzurri have withdrawn from travelling to New Zealand as the logisitics are too difficult to pull off in the current Covid-19 landscape, leaving New Zealand Rugby scrambling to fill the two-Test void created by their cancellation.
While the cancellation has not been officially confirmed yet, Fairfax reports NZR are already well into preparing an alternative schedule with Pacific neighbours Fiji and Samoa.
The All Blacks were originally scheduled to play Fiji just once this year in a single July Test but under the reported new schedule, they will now play the Flying Fijians twice to pick up one of the vacant Test slots with Samoa taking on the other one.
If the schedule comes to fruition, it will be the first time in All Blacks history they have played an entire home series against opposition solely from the Pacific.
Options for the July Test window are limited this year with both the pandemic and British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa complicating things but the new schedule is seen as a win with the intended arrival of two new Pacific Super Rugby franchises next year.
The All Blacks last played Fiji in 2011 in Dunedin and Samoa in 2017 in Auckland.