A long, hard struggle for rugby equality may have won its biggest victory with the All Blacks facing Samoa in Apia for the first time this week, though locals are still asking 'what took you so long?'

Samoa, so long the darlings of World Cup tournaments with their physical and fast-paced game, will finally entertain New Zealand when they host Steve Hansen's side in Apia on Wednesday.

Apia Park has received a $30 million makeover, while the All Blacks have been swamped by rugby-mad locals upon their arrival yesterday, and again at subsequent public events, underlining the enthusiasm for the team and the significance of their visit.

Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, who is also the chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, however, took the opportunity to remind New Zealand that the match was long overdue.

"For many, many years we sought for the All Blacks to come to Apia Park," he said at a welcome ceremony reported by New Zealand media. "We asked... and the Maori All Blacks came. Then the Junior All Blacks were sent.

"The All Blacks, however, remained an elusive 'Scarlet Pimpernel' and we wondered if we were asking the wrong questions."

"The All Blacks remained an elusive 'Scarlet Pimpernel' and we wondered if we were asking the wrong questions"              

The All Blacks, who have played more than 500 tests since their first in 1903, have played just five matches against Samoa, all in New Zealand.

The influence of Polynesian players - and those of Pacific Island origin - on all levels of New Zealand rugby had prompted a groundswell of public opinion that the All Blacks should play in Apia.


Malielegaoi had been lobbying for the match for some time, even putting his Kiwi counterpart John Key on the spot at Samoa's independence celebrations last year, while a New Zealand television journalist had also campaigned for the match.

"It has been a dream for our people for many years that the All Blacks will come to Samoa to play our team, at our home ground, in-front of our people," Malielegaoi added.

"It is a fixture that Pacific rugby nations have coveted for a long time.

"The dream has always been that maybe with home advantage and thousands of Samoans in the stadium and around the world, the Manu Samoans could greatly improve on its performance against the best team in the world."

Like the All Blacks, Samoa will use the match to begin their World Cup preparations, though they again face the issue of struggling to field a full-strength side in England later this year.

At previous World Cups, the team has been shorn of several players due to pressure placed upon them by their Europe-based clubs to skip the tournament and Malielegaoi said 2015 was shaping up as a similar situation.

"We face these challenges every year and every World Cup," he told New Zealand's Fairfax Media.

"We always try to alert World Rugby to try and solve it. The issue of the release of players is not solely a Samoan issue.

"It affects every team with good players playing overseas. It is getting more difficult all the time but it is an issue we do not give up on.

"We will keep fighting and fighting. There's only one way to solve it and that's through the World Rugby board."