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It’s All Blacks all the way for Ireland

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Brian O'Driscoll: Ireland captain

Brian O'Driscoll: Ireland captain

Brian O'Driscoll: Ireland captain

Ireland will lead the way when they play a three-Test series in New Zealand — next year’s World Cup hosts — in June 2012.

Ireland — who also travel to face the All Blacks next month, on June 12 — will be followed in successive years by France and then England.

The All Blacks will not host any touring sides in 2015 because it is a World Cup year but Wales and then the Lions will follow in 2016 and 2017.

The tours are part of the global schedule agreed by the International Rugby Board during recent meetings in Europe.

A three-Test series against the All Blacks has been confirmed for Ireland, with midweek games a possibility.

“We have been pushing for a return to proper rugby tours and for three-Test series for some time now so to see it become a reality is fantastic.

“We are excited by the prospect of a three-Test series each year and I think fans will be as well,” said NZRU chief executive Steve Tew.

“We will start discussions with those countries about midweek matches in due course but we think it will be fantastic for fans if we can get some matches played outside of the main centres,” he added.

The last major tour of New Zealand was by the Lions in 2005 and included matches against smaller provinces such as Bay of Plenty, Manawatu and Taranaki.

Ireland's tour in 2012 and England in 2014 will be the first time those countries have had three-Test series against New Zealand, while it will be the first time France have played three Tests in a row against the All Blacks since 1968.

Belfast Telegraph