Māori All Blacks coach Clayton McMillan has handed former All Blacks halfbacks Brad Weber and TJ Perenara the joint task of leading a young Māori All Blacks on Wednesday.
Weber (Ngāti Porou) will start in the number 9 jersey, while Perenara (Ngāti Rangitihi) will make his Māori All Blacks debut from the bench.
“Having Weber and Perenara as co-captains ensures there is always strong leadership on the field, especially against the unrelenting Ireland side. For our debut players, this will be a proud moment to not only represent this team, but their whānau and their iwi," McMillan said.
TJ Perenara speaks of his pride of finally wearing the Māori All Blacks. source/Te Ao Toa
McMillan has opted for familiar combinations in the 126th match for the Māori All Blacks, with Weber joining Chiefs teammates Josh Ioane (Ngāpuhi) at first five, and Rameka Poihipi (Ngāti Whakaue) at second five.
There are four players making their debut in the starting XV, Cameron Suafoa (Ngāpuhi) at blindside flank, and one-test All Black Cullen Grace (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Raukawa) at number eight. Highlanders back, Connor Garden-Bachop (Ngāti Awa) starts on the left wing, while exciting Blues fullback Zarn Sullivan (Ngāti Kahungunu) gets the nod in the No. 15 jersey.
Six players, including Perenara are in line for a debut from the bench. Ngāi Tāmanuhiri and Ngāti Rangiwewehi hooker, Tyrone Thompson, Highlanders prop Jermaine Ainsley (Te Rārawa, Te Arawa), Hurricanes loose forward Te Kamaka Howden (Ngāi Tūhoe) in the forwards. Perenara is joined by Hurricanes teammates Ruben Love (Te Ātiawa) and Bailyn Sullivan as back covers, with Bailyn playing with younger brother Zarn for the first time ever.
McMillan (Ngāi Te Rangi/Ngāi Tamawhariua/Te Rangihouhiri) said: “We are anticipating a huge challenge from Ireland on Wednesday. They are a top-tier, physical team, with a strong defence.
“It will be a great opportunity for us to showcase Māori rugby internationally, it has been 12 years since the Māori All Blacks last played Ireland.”
The Māori All Blacks last played Ireland in 2010 as part of the centenary celebrations of the Māori All Blacks team, winning 31-28.
The team is:
Ollie Norris (Waikato / Chiefs / Ngāpuhi)
Kurt Eklund (Bay of Plenty / Blues / Ngāti Kahu)
Tyrel Lomax (Tasman / Hurricanes / Muaupoko / Ngāi Tūhoe)
Josh Dickson (Otago / Highlanders / Ngāi Tahu)
Isaia Walker-Leawere (Hawkes Bay/Hurricanes/Ngāti Porou)
Cameron Suafoa (Auckland / Blues / Ngāpuhi)
Billy Harmon (Canterbury / Highlanders / Ngāi Tahu)
Cullen Grace (Canterbury /Crusaders / Ngāti Whakaue / Ngāti Raukawa)
Brad Weber© - Kāpene Paheko (Hawkes Bay / Chiefs / Ngāti Porou)
Josh Ioane (Otago /Chiefs / Te Rārawa)
Connor Garden-Bachop (Wellington / Highlanders / Ngāti Awa)
Rameka Poihipi (Canterbury / Chiefs / Ngāti Whakaue)
Billy Proctor (Wellington / Hurricanes / Ngāi Te Rangi / Ngāpuhi)
Shaun Stevenson (North Harbour / Chiefs / Ngāpuhi)
Zarn Sullivan (Auckland / Blues / Ngāti Kahungunu)
Tyrone Thompson (Hawkes Bay / Chiefs / Ngāi Tāmanuhiri / Ngāti Rangiwewehi)
Tamaiti Williams (Canterbury / Crusaders / Ngāpuhi)
Jermaine Ainsley (Otago /Highlanders / Te Rārawa / Te Arawa)
Maanaki Selby-Rickit (Bay Of Plenty / Highlanders / Ngāti Raukawa / Ngāti Tūwharetoa)
Te Kamaka (TK) Howden (Manawatu / Hurricanes / Ngāi Tūhoe)
TJ Perenara© - Kāpene Paheko (Wellington / Hurricanes / Ngāti Rangitihi)
Ruben Love (Wellington / Hurricanes / Te Atiawa)
Bailyn Sullivan (Waikato / Hurricanes / Ngāti Kahungunu)