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Barbarians-New Zealand clash confirmed

© AFP/File / by Julian GUYER | New Zealand and England currently stand first and second in global rugby rankings

LONDON (AFP) - 

World champions New Zealand will play the Barbarians at Twickenham on November 4, both sides confirmed Saturday.

The match, which forms part of New Zealand Rugby's 125th anniversary celebrations, had been thrown into doubt by an attempt by England to play the All Blacks at Twickenham on the same date.

But England's governing Rugby Football Union, which owns Twickenham, could not persuade their New Zealand counterparts to change course and the All Blacks will play the Barbarians, rugby union's most celebrated invitational side, instead.

The November match, a non-cap international, will be the first time the All Blacks have returned to Twickenham since beating Australia at the London ground to win the 2015 World Cup final.

?We are delighted to announce the match against the Barbarians," said NZR chief executive Steve Tew.

"Like the All Blacks, the Barbarians are part of rugby?s rich history and the match later this year is a befitting way to mark our 125th anniversary.

"Playing the Barbarians is always a special occasion and we think our shared history make this game the most appropriate way to mark our milestone."

Wales hero Gareth Edwards's opening score in the Barbarians' 23-11 win over New Zealand in Cardiff in 1973, when the all-time great scrum-half finished off a length-of-the-field move, is still widely regarded as one of the best tries in the history of rugby union.

The Barbarians also won their last meeting at Twickenham, when Springbok wing Bryan Habana?s hat-trick helped secure a 25-18 victory.

"We're delighted to be renewing one of rugby?s great rivalries at Twickenham on November 4 and we believe it will be another classic encounter between two famous teams," said Barbarians president Micky Steele-Bodger.

The Barbarians play on England on May 28 and Ulster on June 1 before facing New Zealand, who will be making their first appearance in the United Kingdom following their upcoming three-Test series at home to the British and Irish Lions.

Earlier this year, Six Nations champions England equalled New Zealand's record of 18 successive Test victories by a 'tier one' or leading rugby union nation.

But their attempts to break New Zealand's record and complete back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams foundered with a 13-9 loss to Ireland in Dublin in March.

It was the Irish too who ended New Zealand's record run with a 40-29 win in Chicago in November.

England, who are not due to face New Zealand again until next year, lost 24-21 when the teams last met at Twickenham in 2014.

Saturday's announcements mean that, as things stand, New Zealand and England, currently first and second in the global rankings, will meet just once before the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

by Julian GUYER

© 2017 AFP