Maori All Blacks bring in new talent
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Ten new caps have been named in the Maori All Blacks squad for their 2017 northern tour to Canada and France.
Two more players will be named later this week.
Head coach Clayton McMillan said the full squad of 27 included a group of new, but not inexperienced talent.
With players either moving offshore, or earning selection to the All Blacks, the squad takes on a very different look from the Maori All Blacks side that played against the British & Irish Lions in June.
Those selected for the first time include Northland's Ross Wright, Waikato's Jordan Manihera, Bay of Plenty's Liam Polwart and Keepa Mewett, Counties Manukau's Sam Henwood, Tasman's Tyrell Lomax, Manawatu's Jackson Hemopo, Wellington's Jackson Garden-Bachop, Otago's Jonathan Ruru and Teihorangi Walden.
"Many of our players have displayed outstanding form in the National Provincial Cup, and this tour gives them a great opportunity to step up another level again," McMillan said.
"We're really proud that the likes of Damian McKenzie, Rieko Ioane, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Kane Hames have all earned time in the All Blacks environment – as it shows the strength of Maori talent in New Zealand. But we now also have an opportunity to uncover other emerging Maori talent for the black jersey.
"We are fortunate to have Ash Dixon return as captain; he is the heart of our pack and his leadership, both on and off the field, steers the team's special character," he said.
Having coached Bay of Plenty to a National Provincial Cup Championship Finals berth, and the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians against the British & Irish Lions earlier this year, McMillan is embarking on his first campaign with the Maori team, a new chapter for the team, and for himself.
"This short tour is a great opportunity to take the Maori All Blacks to new audiences. It's only the second time we have played Canada and it will be our first visit to Vancouver.
"Our match against the French Barbarians opens what will be a special weekend of rugby in France, as we play in Bordeaux on the eve of the All Blacks Test match against France in Paris.
"I'm very proud to be part of this team, and I am excited about what the next few weeks will bring," he said.
The Maori All Blacks assemble in Auckland this week ahead of travel on Sunday. Players involved in National Provincial Cup Finals will join the squad after those matches.
Players unavailable due to injury are: Otere Black, Namatahi Waa, Ben May, Matt Proctor, Jacob Skeen, Kara Pryor, Leighton Price, Elliot Dixon, Bryn Hall.
Maori All Blacks match schedule:
Friday, November 3:
Canada v Maori All Blacks
Friday, November 10:
French Barbarians v Maori All Blacks
Maori All Blacks squad:
Forwards: Chris Eves, Ross Wright, Marcel Renata, Tyrell Lomax, Ash Dixon, Liam Polwart, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Jarrad Hoeata, Te Keepatakatakaaorangi(Keepa) Mewett, Dan Pryor, Sam Henwood, Akira Ioane, Jordan Manihera.
Backs: Brad Weber, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Jonathan Ruru, Ihaia West, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Tim Bateman, Rob Thompson, Teihorangi Walden, Sean Wainui, Charlie Ngatai, Ambrose Curtis.