Nine All Blacks in Maori side to face Lions
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Maori All Blacks named nine New Zealand internationals Thursday in a strong side to take on the British and Irish Lions.
The Maori, the only side to beat the Lions outside of the Tests on their last tour of New Zealand in 2005, play the tourists in Rotorua on Saturday.
The backline includes three of the most exciting of the younger generation of All Blacks backs - Nehe Milner-Skudder, Damian McKenzie and Reiko Ioane, along with centre Charlie Ngatai and scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow.
Veteran loose forward Liam Messam (43 Tests) adds strength to the pack along with flank Elliott Dixon and prop Kane Hames, with hooker Hika Elliott on the bench.
"We've named a strong group who all have good clarity on how we want to play this match against the Lions," coach Colin Cooper said.
He indicated the Maori will be looking for a free-flowing game with the selection of Chiefs fullback McKenzie at flyhalf, relegating Ihaia West, who scored the Blues match-winning try over the Lions last week, to the bench.
"We feel Damian will suit the game plan that we want to play, from the No.10 position," Cooper said.
Maori All Blacks: 15 James Lowe, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Elliot Dixon, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Rob Thompson.
Date: Saturday, June 17
Venue: International Stadium, Rotorua
Kick-off: 19.35 (08.35 UK & Ireland time; 07.35 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Romain Poite (France)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)