First Māori Under 20 rugby team prepares to take on Fiji

By James Perry

The Māori All Blacks aren't the only team who will be taking on Fiji this weekend in Rotorua.  For the first time, a Māori Under 20s side has been assembled and will play their Fijian counterparts in the curtain-raiser.

Many of the players in the squad have come through the Māori Rugby program over in recent years. 

Under 20s coach Rua Wanoa says it's about providing another pathway for young Māori players.   

"A lot of them are from smaller schools and stuff like that.  We want to try and support them in the dream to become professional players, or just professionals off the field as well."

Squad member Kaipo Brown says it's an amazing opportunity for young Māori players to get back into the Māori environment and playing rugby at the same time.

The squad features players who have come through the Māori under 18s program in recent years, providing an opportunity for players who missed on the NZ Schools and Barbarians Schools teams selection.

Brown says it's good to get into these kinds of camps to find another pathway for Māori athletes.

It's not only on the football field where the boys are developing new skills, Brown says the noho marae, and being surrounded by tikanga Māori has been a new experience for many of the young men in the team.

He says being able to experience what was normal life for their tūpuna has been great.

This morning, the NZ U20 Māori team got to take part in training with the Māori All Blacks in Rotorua, where they had a chance to oppose the senior players and also learn new skills and tactics from the full professionals, as they look to follow in their path in the coming years.