Rugby-Six games in Fiji, one in Samoa in 2023 Super Rugby season

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Fijian Drua will play six games in their island home and Moana Pasifika will play their first in Samoa next season as Super Rugby fully embraces its Pacific expansion after the end of COVID travel restrictions.

The two islander teams were added to the southern hemisphere provincial competition last year but travel restrictions meant they played most of their matches in Australia and New Zealand.

Moana will continue to call Auckland's Mt Smart stadium home for most of the season but will host the Queensland Reds in the Samoan capital Apia in mid April.

The season opens on Feb. 24 when the reigning champion Canterbury Crusaders will take on the Waikato Chiefs in Christchurch and the New South Wales Waratahs hosting the ACT Brumbies at their new Sydney Football Stadium home.

New Zealand travel restrictions meant the competition had to be played in two phases last year, the first of which had teams confined entirely to either New Zealand or Australia.

The 2023 season looks set to be the first fully integrated competition since the COVID-19 pandemic brought a sudden end to the intercontinental version of Super Rugby, which also involved teams from South Africa, Japan and Argentina.

"There is a real feeling that Super Rugby Pacific is ready for take-off after a successful, but COVID disrupted inaugural season," New Zealand Rugby's Chris Lendrum said in a news release.

"We saw massive potential on the field in 2022, but also some huge challenges off it, so to have a fully integrated and uninterrupted draw in 2023 is great news for the players and the fans."

The 2023 season will have 15 rounds, the second taking place entirely in Melbourne, and will climax with a three-week playoff series involving the best eight of the 12 teams in June.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Chris Reese)

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