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Monday Jul 11, 2022

NZ Maori And Ireland Name Experienced Captains For Crucial Clash

Senior figures Keith Earls and TJ Perenara have been named as captains for the crucial second match between Ireland and the New Zealand Maori.

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Earls started the last fixture on the wing shifts to the outside centre berth as he gets set to captain his country for the first time.

Having backed up his last match against the Maori with a start against the All Blacks four days later due to Mack Hansen’s withdrawal due to covid-19.

Earls’ presence in the midfield alongside the physical Stuart McCloskey will give rookie flyhalf Ciaran Frawley some much needed options against the impressive Maori backline.

For Perenara, he is currently on the outside looking in for the All Blacks. Aaron Smith remains firmly planted as first choice whilst the up-and-coming Folau Fakatava appears to be his chosen back-up.

A strong performance against an Ireland team who will be looking to lay down a marker following their opening defeat could go a long way towards forcing his back into the set-up.

For Ireland there are several players on the periphery of the first team who with a big performance could set themselves up for a call-up in the near future.

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Earls’ centre partner McCloskey who has come in for his injured Ulster teammate James Hume has been sensational at club level this season. McCloskey offers Ireland a physical presence in the backline who is more than capable of throwing well timed offloads.

Leinster utility back Jordan Larmour has seen his role in the Ireland set-up diminished as of late due to a spate of injuries and the emergence of James Lower and Mack Hansen. Larmour however offers an attacking threat unlike any available to Ireland with his ability to change direction at full pace often leaving a trail of defenders in his wake.

In the forward pack, Nick Timoney and Gavin Coombes were two stand-outs last time out against the Maori. The Irish backrow is stacked with world class operators at present but Coombes in particular brings a physical presence the likes of which Ireland hasn’t had since Stephen Ferris’s retirement.

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Looking towards the Maori, winger Shaun Stevenson was absolutely sublime in the first game. The tall winger was a menace for the Irish back three in the aerial battle and his strike running caused all sorts of defensive issues for the usually resolute Irish defence.

At number eight Cullen Grace will be looking to add to his one All Black cap later on this season. A try scorer in the first game, the Crusader is a rangy ball playing backrower in a similar mould to England’s Zach Mercer and former Springbok Warren Whitely.

Both sides will be out to perform, for Ireland they will be both frustrated from the first game but also buoyed by their victory in the second test against the All Blacks. The Maori will once again be out to proof that they are a class operation who when given space can tear even the best test teams to pieces.

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