The New Zealand Maori play in Fiji for the first time.

This match, against a Fijian 2nd XV, played at Albert Park, Suva, opened the five match Maori tour of Fiji. Since their first tour in 1910 NZ Maori, as well as playing around New Zealand, had visited Australia five times, and made a memorable tour to Australia, Ceylon, France, England, Wales and Canada in 1926-27. This though was their first visit to the Pacific and may have been a reflection of the progress of the game in the Fiji. Just, possibly, the proposed All Black tour to South Africa in 1940, for which Maori players would not be eligible, was a factor. So too may have been the reluctance of the South African Rugby Board to engage with Maori players on the Springboks 1937 tour of New Zealand and the omission of a New Zealand Maori game from the itinerary for that tour. Could this tour to Fiji have been a measure of compensation for Maori players?

The 1938 NZ Maori team in Fiji

Before leaving for Fiji the Maori lost to Wanganui 18 – 19. In Fiji their results were:

Aug. 13 v Fijian 2nd XV. Won 14 – 6.
Aug. 17 v Fiji European XV. Won 17 – 6.
Aug. 20 v Fiji (1st test) Drawn 3 all.
Aug. 24 v Fiji (2nd test) Lost 5 – 11.
Aug. 27 v Fiji (3rd test) Won 6 – 3

The Maori team was captained by five eight E N Howell from Bay of Plenty with forward A C Kenny of Wellington as vice captain. Surprisingly only nine forwards were selected for a seven match tour (NZ Maori played Wanganui before and Auckland after the matches in Fiji). After the team suffered some injuries threequarter P Kutia (Poverty Bay) played the last three matches in the forwards.

Two leading Maori players, wing Bill Phillips (King Country) and prop Everard Jackson (Hawkes Bay) toured Australia with the 1938 All Blacks in in a tour that timewise clashed with the Maori visit to Fiji.

Fiji made their first visit to New Zealand the following year, playing very well in their eight matches, winning seven and drawing one. Their match against NZ Maori was won 14 – 4. An oddity of their tour was that they played the first six games with a 2-3-2 scrum with wing forward (New Zealand had abandoned that formation in 1932), switching to 3-4-1 for the last two games.