Maori All Blacks head coach Clayton McMillan says he can't wait to see his side in action against Ireland after a five-year wait to play a Tier 1 nation.
The Lions were the Maori’s last elite opponents and they are set to host an Ireland XV in non-cap games on 29 June and 12 July.
"Ireland have shown an immense amount of growth in recent years," said McMillan, who named experienced All Blacks TJ Perenara, Brad Weber and Tyrel Lomax in his squad.
"They’ve tested the All Blacks and I couldn’t think of a better way to showcase Maori rugby and to expose some great young players to this level of the game. To test ourselves against one of the best.
"The Maori team is always grateful to have a programme and we have played some really proud teams over the last five to six years, but we have been desperate to test ourselves against a Tier 1 nation and with the Irish coming out here to play the All Blacks and a couple of midweek games, it doesn’t get much better."
The Lions, featuring captain Peter O’Mahony, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Tadhg Furlong, Sean O’Brien, Jack McGrath and Iain Henderson, beat a Maori side with James Lowe at full-back 32-10 in 2017.
The Irish squad flies to New Zealand early next week and speaking ahead of the five-game tour, which includes three Tests against the All Blacks, O’Mahony told Irish Rugby: "Touring is certainly the best part of rugby and it’s great to be going back.
"Obviously, 2012 was the last time [Ireland] travelled there and I’m one of a handful who was on that tour.
"I can remember Brian O’Driscoll saying none of us were ever going to be back here again and [here we are] 10 years later.
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'This is a huge opportunity. You have to test yourself against the best in the world and the All Blacks are up there. It’s a massive challenge – five games in three weeks.
"It’s been great to be back together, some familiar faces and great to see some of the young guns in as well. We’ve got some good preparation done before we get on the flight."
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