Two Blues players have been selected as part of the 2014 Maori All Blacks squad to compete in Japan early next month.
First five-eighth Ihaia West and halfback Jamison Gibson-Park were announced as part of the 27-man squad in Wellington yesterday. For both players, this is not the first time playing for the New Zealand Maori team.
Gibson-Park is from the Ngati Porou and Ngai Tai iwi, hailing from Gibson. Consistency in competition and his speed led to Gibson-Park’s naming in the 2012 European Maori All Blacks squad and again in the 2013 North American tour.
West is a member of the Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Porou iwi. He has been identified as a deft first five with a distinct left-foot step while playing for Hawkes Bay in the ITM Cup, skills that earned West a spot on the 2013 Maori All Blacks North American tour alongside his Blues teammate.
This will be the Maori All Black’s first visit to Japan in competition and, according to coach Colin Cooper, will be an opportunity to showcase the Maori All Black’s strong history playing against national teams.
“The team has a proud legacy and an enviable record against national teams,” said Cooper to New Zealand Rugby. “So I am sure all 27 players will be working hard to ensure this tour honours that legacy.”
The opening game between the Maori All Blacks and Japan will be on Saturday 1 November at Noevair Stadium. A week later, the two teams will face off again at Prince Chichibu Stadium in Tokyo.
An initial closing match was scheduled for 15 November against the Asia Pacific Dragons in Singapore, but it has since been cancelled due to concerns over pitch readiness and player safety.
The team will depart for Japan from Auckland Airport on Monday 27 October.
A late addition to the team is Hayden Triggs, who has come in to replace Joe Wheeler. Triggs is from North Harbour and the Ngati Kahungunu iwi.
2014 Maori All Blacks Team
Shane Christie ( vc )
Charlie Ngatai ( c )
* New cap