Eight new caps in Māori All Blacks for Moana Pasifika clash

By Te Ao - Māori News

Rookies Billy Proctor (Ngāi Te Rangi/Ngāpuhi), Quinn Tupaea (Waikato/Tainui) and Rāmeka Poihipi (Ngāti Whakaue) form an all-new midfield combination, while Chiefs fullback Kaleb Trask (Ngāpuhi) also joins the backline. 

In the forwards, Tamaiti Williams (Ngāpuhi), Ethan Roots (Ngāti Kahungunu), Blues prop Kurt Eklund (Ngāpuhi) and Highlanders lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Ngāti Raukawa) will be hoping to make their debuts in Hamilton. 

Coach Clayton McMillan says "the eight new caps bring some genuine excitement and energy to the squad."

Balancing out the youth is the return of 36-year-old former All Blacks loose forward Liam Messam (Tūhoe) looking to make his first Māori All Blacks appearance since the British and Irish Lions game in 2017, and Highlanders prop Josh Hohneck (Ngāti Manuhiri/Ngāti Whātua) who last wore the jersey in 2015. Hawke's Bay and Highlanders captain Ash Dixon (Ngāti Tahinga) has again been given the captaincy. 

"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," McMillan says.

Experience and new energy

Another former All Black and Māori All Black Tony Brown (Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Tahu) joins the coaching ranks this year. Brown, who helped guide Japan reach the quarter-finals at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, will assume the reins at the Highlanders in 2021 will join Roger Randle (Ngāti Awa) as assistants to McMillan. 

McMillan says, "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 o knowledge to our coaching team, and also passion as someone who has worn the Māori jersey."

Dixon, who has captained the Māori All Blacks since 2016 says the historic clash against Moana Pasifika, which has included two former Māori All Blacks, Leni Apisai (Ngāti Awa, Samoa, Tūvalu) and Josh Ioane (Ngāpuhi, Samoa) will be a special occasion.

Real edge

"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.”

Kickoff will be at 7.05pm on Saturday, December 5 at Hamilton's FMG Stadium.

The squad is: 

Props - 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

Hookers - Ash Dixon (c), Hawkes Bay/Highlanders, Ngāti Tahinga; *Kurt Eklund, Bay of Plenty/Blues, Ngāpuhi

Locks - *Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Southland/Highlanders, Ngāti Raukawa; Isaia Walker-Leawere, Hawkes Bay/Hurricanes, Ngāti Porou

Loose forwards -  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

Half backs - Bryn Hall, North Harbour/Crusaders, Ngāti Ranginui; Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Bay of Plenty/Chiefs, Ngāti Pikiao

First five-eighths - Otere Black, Bay of Plenty/Blues, Ngāi Tuhoe/Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Tūwharetoa; Fletcher Smith, Waikato/Hurricanes, Ngāti Kahungunu

Midfield - *Billy Proctor, Wellington/Hurricanes, Ngai Te Rangi/Ngāpuhi; *Rameka Poihipi, Canterbury, Ngāti Whakaue;  *Quinn Tupaea, Waikato/Chiefs, Waikato/Tainui

Outside backs - 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