Four Blues players have been named in the Maori All Blacks squad to take on Canada and the United States next month.
Halfbacks Piri Weepu and Jamison Gibson-Park, flanker Luke Braid and midfielder Jackson Willison have been included in the 26-man squad announced by New Zealand Maori Rugby board Chairman Wayne Peters today.
The side will be captained by Wellington and Hurricanes back Tim Bateman and features six former All Blacks and 11 players who played for the Maori All Blacks last year.
The squad departs for North America on Monday 28 October
The squad for the Maori All Blacks North America Tour is:
Coach Colin Cooper said he was pleased to take a squad boasting an exciting mix of experience and young talent.
“I’m really excited about this tour and the opportunities it gives young players to press for higher honours, as well as the chance to honour the proud legacy of the teams that have gone before.
“New Zealand Rugby has identified the Maori All Blacks as a high performance team and our selections reflect that.
“We have experienced campaigners like Hika Elliott and Piri Weepu as well as young up and comers like Ihaia West and Liam Squire so the side has great balance.
“While our time together is short, we are very determined to build on our international record and make the most of the matches against Canada and the United States.
“These are great times for the Maori All Blacks. We going to a part of the world which offers huge opportunities for New Zealand rugby and for our national teams to connect with more fans. Also, with New Zealand Rugby Major Global Sponsor AIG’s support the team can now look forward to a regular international touring programme and that will help the All Blacks coaching team build for the future.”
26 year old Tim Bateman takes over the captaincy from Tanerau Latimer who was unavailable as he is due to have surgery on a long standing injury.
“I am thrilled for Tim to take over the leadership duties – he is a mature young man who leads by example. He knows the team culture really well having played for us in recent years so he is a great fit.
“I’m disappointed for Tanerau, but fully respect his reasons to step away for this tour.”
Maori All Blacks North American Tour schedule (NZT)
Sunday 3 November v Canada at BMO Stadium, kick-off 1pm (6am Monday 4 Nov)
Saturday 9 November v USA at PPL Park, kick-off 7pm (Midday Sunday 10 Nov)