New Zealand Maori will take part in the 2006 Churchill Cup tournament, the New Zealand Rugby Union confirmed on Tuesday.
The team, winners of the competition in 2004, will be one of six competing in the tournament in June next year, along with the United States, Canada, England A, Scotland A and Ireland A.
For the first time in the history of the competition, matches will be played in four cities in Canada and the United States, where the New Zealand Maori team will be based for its pool matches. The pool matches will be played in San Francisco, Ottawa and Toronto with the finals in Edmonton.
New Zealand Maori will play its Pool A matches in San Francisco against the United States and Ireland A. England A, winners in 2005, are grouped in Pool B with Canada and Scotland A, and will play its pool matches in Toronto and Ottawa.
Pool matches will be staged on Saturday 3 June, Wednesday 7 June and Saturday 10 June with the finals at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Saturday 17 June.
New Zealand Rugby Union Deputy Chief Executive Steve Tew said the Churchill Cup tournament is regarded as a great opportunity to develop the game.
"We are delighted to be in a position whereby we can help with the growth of rugby in Canada and the United States. It is important for the world game that developing rugby nations get the chance to play international sides and this competition certainly offers them that opportunity," Mr Tew said.
The tournament has grown in popularity since its introduction in 2003 and in 2005 over 17,000 spectators attended the event.
2006 Churchill Cup schedule (kick-off times TBC)
Saturday 3 June
England A v Scotland A, Toronto
United States v Ireland A, San Francisco
Wednesday 7 June
Canada v Scotland A, Ottawa
New Zealand Maori v United States, San Francisco
Saturday 10 June
Canada v England A, Toronto
New Zealand Maori v Ireland A, San Francisco
Saturday 17 June
Third Place Pool A v Third Place Pool B, Edmonton
Second Place Pool A v Third Place Pool B, Edmonton
First Place Pool A v First Place Pool B, Edmonton