Rugby: All Blacks to host Fiji after Italy cancel tour of New Zealand due to COVID fears

Italy have cancelled their tour of New Zealand this summer, due to concerns around travelling during the coronavirus pandemic.

Scheduled for July, the tour featured two test matches against the All Blacks, but will now not take place, leaving NZ Rugby scrambling to save its July test window.

"After constructive consultations between our federations and health authorities, to our deep regret, the current conditions made it preferable to concentrate energies at home ahead of the autumn series," says Italian Rugby Federation president Marzio Innocenti.

Instead, the All Blacks will face Fiji for the first time since 2011, playing two tests. New Zealand will also host a two-leg Rugby World Cup qualifier between Tonga and Samoa.

Italy has registered 122,694 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year - the second-highest toll in Europe, after Britain, and seventh-highest in the world.

The country is still struggling to contain the virus, with 224 coronavirus-related deaths reported on Saturday, against 207 the previous day, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 10,176 from 10,554.

The Azzurri are due to host the All Blacks in a November international, as well as taking on Argentina and Uruguay in the same series.

The All Blacks have never played an entire home series against Pacific Islands opposition.