The Maori All Blacks team to play Fiji in Suva on Saturday features two sets of brothers in the starting fifteen and nine new caps in total. Charlie Ngatai will captain the side, fresh from his All Blacks debut against Samoa yesterday.
The new caps include the Ioane brothers, Akira and Rieko (18 years old), and Tawera Kerr-Barlow who is returning from a long injury enforced break. Chiefs back Damian McKenzie will also make his debut at fullback alongside his brother Marty, making for a rare set of four brothers in the Maori All Blacks jersey.
There are also six players from the Hurricanes and Highlanders who appeared in Saturday’s Investec Super Rugby final.
Coach Colin Cooper said the short assembly time had been challenging for the squad, but he was pleased with how quickly the players had gelled as a unit.
“We have a good mix in the team to take on Fiji. There are players who have come out of the Super Rugby finals series in great nick and those who have had a bit more of a layoff so I think that will work well for us. It’s great that we are also able to field some of the exciting, young players we’ve brought into this team and I know Saturday will be a very proud day for them.
“We’re certainly fit and raring to go against what we see is a very strong Fijian team so we’ll need to be at our best to honour our record against international teams.”
The Maori All Blacks have played against Fiji 28 times in total, winning 19 times and drawing twice.
Team to Play Fiji at ANZ Stadium, Suva 3pm (local time)
1 Joe Moody*, 2 Ash Dixon, 3 Ben May, 4 Jacob Skeen*, 5 Hayden Triggs, 6 Akira Ioane*, 7 Mitchell Crosswell, 8 Blade Thomson, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 10 Marty McKenzie, 11 Kurt Baker, 12 Charlie Ngatai [C], 13 Matt Proctor, 14 Rieko Ioane*, 15 Damian McKenzie*
Reserves: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Brendon Edmonds, 18 Josh Hohneck*, 19 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis*, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Otere Black*, 23 Jason Emery
Maori All Blacks 2015 matches
• Saturday 11 July v Fiji, ANZ National Stadium, Suva. Kickoff 3pm
• Saturday 18 July v New Zealand Barbarians, Eden Park, Auckland. Kickoff 7.35pm