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Test status for Pacific rugby side

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SYDNEY, Australia -- A combined Pacific Islands team has been awarded test status by the International Rugby Board and will make its international debut against Australia in July.

The Pacific team, made up of players from Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, faces the Wallabies in Adelaide on July 3.

The Islanders will also play tests against New Zealand and South Africa with all proceeds going to the Pacifc region.

"This will be an historic match not just for the people of the Pacific, but the first time that a new and competitive test team has debuted in the world of rugby," said Charlie Charters, the chief executive of the Pacific Islanders Rugby Alliance (PIRA).

"The great strength of Pacific Island rugby is that it is visually exciting and full of passion and open play so I am confident we will put on a real spectacle."

Australia coach Eddie Jones said the Wallabies were honored to face the Pacific team.

"The Pacific Islanders will be a formidable challenge for the Wallabies. Like the British and Irish Lions, they are made up of the best players from top quality international teams," said Jones.

"The Islanders generally play with a lot of flair and natural talent. They like to throw the ball around and run it from anywhere, which usually makes for a fast, free-flowing match."

Fiji coach Wayne Pivac will coach the Pacific side, assisted by former Wallaby Willie Ofahengaue and former All Black Michael Jones.

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