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Photo by KAI SCHWOERER/Getty Images)

The Vantage Black Sticks Men are set to open the year with a bang at the University of Waikato Four Nations in Tauranga and Hamilton. They will be looking to seek revenge against India after India whitewashed them 4-0 win in their last clash at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup last year.

Split across two separate five-day series, Blake Park in Tauranga hosts the action from 17-21 January before teams head to Gallagher Hockey Centre in Hamilton from 24-28 January. The Four Nations Tournament will ssee sees New Zealand host Olympic silver medallists Belgium (world ranking 3rd), India (6th) and Japan (16th) from 17-28 January.

Head coach Darren Smith has named a travelling group of 23 players for the series, which he plans to use as an opportunity to spread game time across a wider group.

Midfielders Shea McAleese and Arun Panchia provide the bulk of experience having played a combined 476 internationals, while there are also 11 athletes who have played less than 50 tests.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to see some top class international hockey in Tauranga and Hamilton,” Smith said about the series.

“Belgium after winning silver in Rio have gone from strength to strength and are in my view the best in the world. India are coming off winning the Asian games and finishing third in the recent World League Final. They are quick, skilful and aggressive.

“Japan are coming onto the international scene strong with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in mind. In 2017 they knocked over Australia at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with their direct and hard-working style.

“For our team it will be the first time that we have been fully together since July 2017 with European club hockey and injury meaning that we operated deep into our extended squad through the October-November period. This will allow us to give more opportunities and also get our team in order ahead of the Commonwealth Games in April.”

New Zealand last played Belgium and Japan at the Hockey World League Semi Finals in Johannesburg where they recorded a 2-0 defeat and 3-1 victory respectively.

Tickets for all games in Tauranga and Hamilton are available now and start from just $5 through www.dashtickets.co.nz

For those who cant be there in person, all games will be streamed live on the Vantage Black Sticks Facebook page (facebook.com/nzblacksticks) with replays available on demand at the conclusion of the live broadcast.

The University of Waikato Four Nations is proudly supported by Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust (TECT), Tauranga City Council and Hamilton City Council.