Māori All Blacks Head Coach Clayton McMillan (Ngāi Te Rangi/Ngāi Tamawhariua/Te Rangaihouhiri) has named eight new caps in a 24-strong squad to prepare for a one-off match against Moana Pasifika in Hamilton.
Hawke’s Bay and Highlanders hooker Ash Dixon (Ngāti Tahinga) will captain the side against Moana Pasifika on Saturday, 5 December, kick-off 7.05pm.
The Māori All Blacks squad features an injection of youth around a core of experience and will also benefit from the knowledge of Highlanders Head Coach Tony Brown (Ngāpuhi), who has been announced as an Assistant Coach alongside Roger Randle (Ngāti Awa).
Among the new caps in the squad is an all-new midfield trio of Billy Proctor, 21, (Ngai Te Rangi/Ngāpuhi) and former Hamilton Boys’ High School first XV teammates Quinn Tupaea, 21, (Waikato/Tainui) and Rameka Poihipi, 22 (Ngāti Whakaue). Fulllback Kaleb Trask (Ngāpuhi) is also 21.
There are also four new faces in the forwards where 20-year-old Canterbury prop Taimati Williams (Ngāpuhi) is joined by Crusaders and North Harbour loose forward Ethan Roots (Ngāti Kahungunu), Bay of Plenty and Blues prop Kurt Eklund (Ngāpuhi) and Southland and Highlanders lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Ngāti Raukawa).
One player will be added to the Māori All Blacks squad in coming days.
“It’s an exciting group and the eight new caps bring some genuine excitement and energy to the squad,” McMillan said. “There is a new generation of Māori players coming through, but also there are some great leaders around them with a vast amount of experience.”
That experience includes captain Dixon, who has been inspirational in leading Hawke’s Bay to this weekend’s Mitre 10 Cup Championship final, as well as former All Black Liam Messam (36), who will play his first match for the Māori All Blacks since facing the British & Irish Lions in Rotorua in 2017, and Otago prop Josh Hohneck (Ngāti Manuhiri/Ngāti Whātua) who last wore the Māori jersey in 2015.
“It’s great to have the mana of players like Liam and Josh back in the playing group and likewise Tony Brown brings a huge amount of knowledge to our coaching team, and also passion as someone who has worn the Māori All Blacks jersey.”
Dixon said the match against Moana Pasifika would be a special occasion.
“This year has been challenging for a lot of people across our communities in New Zealand and to have the chance to represent the Māori All Blacks in the heart of Waikato-Tainui and the Kingitanga for the only time in 2020 will be a huge honour for us as players, our whānau and our iwi.
“It will be a celebration and connection of culture in Hamilton, but we know Moana Pasifika is a talented, passionate and physical opponent so expect there will be a real edge in both camps.”
The Māori All Blacks squad is (with Province, Super Rugby Club, and Iwi):
*Italics denotes new caps
Josh Hohneck, Otago, Ngāti Manuhiri/Ngāti Whātua
Pouri Rakete-Stones, Hawkes Bay/Hurricanes, Ngāpuhi
Marcel Renata, Auckland/Blues, Ngāti Whānaunga/Ngāi Takoto
*Tamaiti Williams, Canterbury, Ngāpuhi
Ash Dixon (c), Hawkes Bay/Highlanders, Ngāti Tahinga
*Kurt Eklund, Bay of Plenty/Blues, Ngāpuhi
*Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Southland/Highlanders, Ngāti Raukawa
Isaia Walker-Leawere, Hawkes Bay/Hurricanes, Ngāti Porou
Billy Harmon, Canterbury/Crusaders, Ngāi Tahu
Reed Prinsep, Canterbury/Hurricanes, Te Rārawa
Liam Messam, Waikato, Ngāi Tuhoe
Whetukamokamo Douglas, Canterbury/Crusaders, Ngāti Porou/Ngāti Whakaue
*Ethan Roots, North Harbour/Crusaders, Ngāti Kahungunu
Bryn Hall, North Harbour/Crusaders, Ngāti Ranginui
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Bay of Plenty/Chiefs, Ngāti Pikiao
Otere Black, Bay of Plenty/Blues, Ngāi Tuhoe/Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Tūwharetoa
Fletcher Smith, Waikato/Hurricanes, Ngāti Kahungunu
*Billy Proctor, Wellington/Hurricanes, Ngai Te Rangi/Ngāpuhi
*Rameka Poihipi, Canterbury, Ngāti Whakaue
*Quinn Tupaea, Waikato/Chiefs, Waikato/Tainui
Sean Wainui, Taranaki/Chiefs, Ngāi Tuhoe/Te Āitanga a Māhaki/Ngā Arikikaiputahi/Ngāti Porou
Shaun Stevenson, North Harbour/Chiefs, Ngāpuhi
Jonah Lowe, Hawkes Bay/Hurricanes, Ngāti Pikiao
*Kaleb Trask, Bay of Plenty/Chiefs, Ngāpuhi
Head Coach – Clayton, McMillan, Ngāi Te Rangi/Ngāi Tamawhariua/Te Rangaihouhiri
Assistant Coaches – Roger Randle, Ngāti Awa; Tony Brown (Ngāpuhi)