The Māori All Blacks team features two sets of brothers in the starting fifteen and nine new caps in total. Charlie Ngatai will captain the side, fresh from his All Blacks debut against Samoa yesterday.
The new caps include the Ioane brothers, Akira and Rieko, and Tawera Kerr-Barlow who is returning from a long injury enforced break (see attached team list). Chiefs back Damian McKenzie will also make his debut at fullback alongside his brother Marty, making for a rare set of four brothers in the Maori All Blacks jersey.
There are also six players from the Hurricanes and Highlanders who appeared in Saturday’s Investec Super Rugby final.
Coach Colin Cooper said the short assembly time had been challenging for the squad, but he was pleased with how quickly the players had gelled as a unit.
“This squad has developed a great spirit very quickly and even though we had a long journey to Suva, we’re in good shape. We’re really looking forward to training today and adapting to the hotter conditions here.
“We have a good mix in the team to take on Fiji. There are players who have come out of the Super Rugby finals series in great nick and those who have had a bit more of a layoff so I think that will work well for us. It’s great that we are also able to field some of the exciting, young players we’ve brought into this team and I know Saturday will be a very proud day for them.
“We’re certainly fit and raring to go against what we see is a very strong Fijian team so we’ll need to be at our best to honour our record against international teams.”
1 Joe Moody * Canterbury Ngai Tahu
2 Ash Dixon Hawke’s Bay Ngati Tahinga
3 Ben May Wellington Ngati Maniapoto / Tainui
4 Jacob Skeen * Waikato Ngapuhi
5 Hayden Triggs North Harbour Ngati Kahungunu
6 Akira Ioane * Auckland Ngapuhi / Te Whanau a Apanui
7 Mitchell Crosswell Taranaki Ngati Porou
8 Blade Thomson Taranaki Ngapuhi
9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow * Waikato Waikato / Ngati Maniapoto
10 Marty McKenzie Taranaki Ngati Tuwharetoa / Ngati Tahinga
11 Kurt Baker Taranaki Ngapuhi
12 Charlie Ngatai [C] Taranaki Ngati Porou / Te Whanau-a-Apanui
13 Matt Proctor Wellington Ngapuhi / Ngaiterangi
14 Rieko Ioane * Auckland Ngapuhi / Te Whanau a Apanui
15 Damian McKenzie * Waikato Ngati Tuwharetoa / Ngati Tahinga
16 Quentin MacDonald Tasman Rangitane
17 Brendon Edmonds Hawke’s Bay Ngati Kahungunu
18 Josh Hohneck * Waikato Ngati Whanaunga / Ngati Whatua / Ngati Wai
19 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis* Manawatu Ngapuhi
20 Elliot Dixon Southland Ngapuhi
21 Jamison Gibson-Park Taranaki Ngati Porou / Ngai Tai
22 Otere Black * Manawatu Ngai Tuhoe / Te Whanau-a-Apanui / Ngati Tuwharetoa
23 Jason Emery Manawatu Ngati Haua / Ngati Maniapoto
Saturday 11 July v Fiji, ANZ National Stadium, Suva. Kickoff 3pm
Saturday 18 July v New Zealand Barbarians, Eden Park, Auckland. Kickoff 7.35pm