Auckland coach Pat Lam and his 26-member squad will arrive in Bangkok tomorrow for a brief training camp in the run-up to the Air New Zealand Cup, which will kick off on July 26.
The squad includes veteran halfback Steve Devine, capped 10 times by the All Blacks, and Ben Atiga, a star of New Zealand's 2003 Under-21 World Cup victory. However, the visitors are deprived of some of their big names, including Joe Rocokoko, who are on national duty at the Tri-Nations tournament.
The visit of Auckland is a reflection of a cordial relationship between Thailand and the Auckland Rugby Union. In the last two years, Auckland has hosted under-15 sides of Thailand's leading rugby school Vajiravudh - the first Thai rugby teams to visit New Zealand.
Due to budget constraints, Auckland's pre-season trip had appeared unlikely until the Thai Rugby Union saved the day by agreeing to pay for the majority of the trip.
Thai RU president Viroj Nualkhair believes local rugby will gain lots of benefits from Auckland's visit.
"Initially, they had planned to have a training camp in either Thailand or Japan. It's excellent that they chose to come to us," he said.
"This will be an unique opportunity as we can get tips that will help us upgrade our rugby from such a high-profile team.
"We'll learn not only techniques and tactics but also get knowledge about nutrition. We'll know how to prepare meals for athletes that will
help them to reach peak condition."
The preparation programme of Auckland in Thailand will start on Sunday. In the first three days, they will have a training session in the morning before holding a rugby clinic in the afternoon. From Wednesday, they will move to seaside town Hua Hin for two days' training before leaving Thailand.