2014 Maori All Blacks squad named
The Maori All Blacks squad to take on Japan next month was named in Wellington today and features 11 new caps.
The team will be captained by Chiefs midfield back Charlie Ngatai with Tasman loose forward Shane Christie as vice-captain.
While New Zealand Rugby has yet to receive official confirmation, the planned match in Singapore against the Asia Pacific Dragons on 15 November, will not proceed due to pitch issues at the National Stadium.
The squad for the Maori All Blacks 2014 Tour to Japan is:
Joe Royal - Te Arawa/Ngati Whatua o Orakei - Bay of Plenty
Ash Dixon - Ngati Tahinga - Hawke's Bay
Codie Taylor* - Ngati Raukawa/Muaupoko - Canterbury
Chris Eves - Tainui - Manawatu
Mike Kainga* - Ngati Kahungunu - Bay of Plenty
Nicholas Barrett - Ngati Kahungunu - Auckland
Brendon Edmonds* - Ngati Kahungunu - Hawke’s Bay
Tom Franklin* - Ngati Maniapoto -Otago
Joseph Wheeler - Ngai Tahu - Tasman
Shane Christie (vc) - Te Atihaunui a Paparangi - Tasman
Blade Thomson - Ngapuhi - Taranaki
Liam Squire - Ngai Tahu - Tasman
Elliot Dixon - Ngapuhi - Southland
Sean Polwart* - Ngati Pu/Ngati Maru - Auckland
Dan Pryor* - Ngapuhi/Ngati Pikiao - Northland
Jamison Gibson-Park - Ngati Porou/Nga TaiTaranaki
Chris Smylie - Ngati MutungaTaranaki
Ihaia West - Ngati Kahungunu/Ngati PorouHawke’s Bay
Marty McKenzie* - Ngati TuwharetoaTaranaki
Jason Emery* - Ngati Haua/Ngati Maniapoto - Manawatu
Charlie Ngatai (c) - Ngati Porou/Te Whanau-a-Apanui - Wellington
James Lowe* - Ngapuhi/Ngai te Rangi - Tasman
Matt Proctor - Ngapuhi/Ngai te Rangi - Wellington
Kurt Baker - Ngapuhi - Taranaki
Joe Webber* - Ngati Ranginui - Waikato
Nehe Milner-Skudder* - Ngati Porou/Tapuika - Manawatu
Robbie Robinson - Tuwharetoa/Ngati Tahinga - Southland
The 27-strong squad departs for its first ever visit to Japan on Monday 27 October. The team plays Japan on Saturday, 1 November at Noevair Stadium, Kobe and on Saturday, 8 November at Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo. Players not considered because of injury were Hika Elliott, Ben Afeaki and Luke Braid.
Coach Colin Cooper said he was pleased with the mix of youth and experience in the 2014 squad, which includes 16 players who took part in last year’s North American Tour.
“We have some exciting young players keen to make their mark like Joe Webber and Marty McKenzie who are capped for the first time, plus some very experienced older hands like Shane Christie and Elliot Dixon, so it’s a very well balanced side.
“The team has a proud legacy and an enviable record against national teams so I am sure all 27 players will be working hard to ensure this tour honours that legacy.
“We are very conscious that this team plays an important role in New Zealand Rugby’s high performance strategy so our selections are very much guided by that. We certainly see this tour as a valuable opportunity for players to show what they can do on the international stage.
“This tour will have its challenges – we know Japan will be keen to make the most of the two matches as it builds for Rugby World Cup 2015 and its recent successes show they cannot be taken lightly.
“I would like to thank New Zealand Rugby’s Major Global Sponsor AIG for helping to make this tour possible. Their support is helping us take our brand of rugby to new places and connect with more fans, as well providing exciting opportunities for young players to press for higher honours.”
24 year old Charlie Ngatai succeeds Tim Bateman as captain. Bateman is now playing offshore.
“This is a wonderful honour for Charlie and who has shown great maturity as a young player and certainly leads by example,” said Cooper. “He knows the team culture well and I am sure he will equip himself well in this important role.”
Ngatai has played for the Maori All Blacks on the past two tours.
“I’m really excited to lead this team,” he said. “We have a proud legacy and I am determined to do my best to ensure we honour the great teams and players that have gone before us during the three matches next month.”
Update on Singapore match
New Zealand Rugby was very disappointed the match against the Asia Pacific Dragons had to be cancelled.
“We feel somewhat let down that this has happened at this late stage," said New Zealand Rugby General Manager Planning and Operations Nigel Cass.
“However, the safety of our players is paramount and we were unable to get the assurances we needed that the pitch was playable.
“We think Singapore has huge potential for rugby and we remain very keen to play our part in developing the game there. We are certainly committed to coming back at some point to play this important match and in the meantime hope to take some players there after Japan to undertake community and other activities.”
Maori All Blacks 2014 Tour to Japan (NZT)
•1 November v Japan, Noevair Stadium, Kobe, 2.15pm (6.15pm)
•8 November v Japan, Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo, 2pm (6pm)
Watch the Maori All Blacks
•New Zealand - all matches live on SKY.
•Japan - J Sports