Five players who were part of the Blues environment this season have been named in the New Zealand Maoris for home and away clashes against Fiji this month.
They include Marcel Renata, No 8 Akira Ioane, halfback Jonathan Ruru, first-five Otere Black as well as Northland and Blues Injury Replacement Player Ross Wright (prop).
The team assemble in Rotorua on Friday before travelling to Suva for the first match against Fiji on Saturday 13 July before the return clash at Rotorua on Saturday 20 July.
Māori All Blacks head coach Clayton McMillan said the squad named was an exciting mix of vast experience and new energy.
“This is a really exciting squad to name. I think we have a good balance between the experience of guys who know how to perform at this level, and those who bring an important fresh perspective and energy. We also have some returning after an absence and they will bring some important knowledge into our group.”
Otere, Jonathan, Akira, Marcel and Ross were all part of the NZ Maoris last year, with Ross filling in as a replacement at the Blues after a stint at the Chiefs.
“With six players (Harris, Lomax, Dixon, Ioane, Hall and Tahuriorangi) in our mix with All Blacks experience, we can take a very solid squad to Suva and then on to Rotorua,” said McMillan.
“Pulling on the Māori All Blacks jersey is a wonderful opportunity, and I know that these players will want to represent their heritage, their whanau and their country well. These next two fixtures will allow players to showcase what they have, and really put their best foot forward for higher honours.
“We’re looking forward to playing Fiji in Suva and then again in Rotorua. They’re a fantastic and exciting opposition who play a similar game to the Maori All Blacks. We know they’ll be looking to use this Series as preparation for their Rugby World Cup campaign.
“For some time we’ve been coveting a strong international opposition, and Fiji certainly fits that bill. We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing Fiji in back to back fixtures.
“I’m very excited about coaching a Māori team that is playing in Rotorua – what we consider to be the sentimental home of the Māori All Blacks.”
Māori All Blacks:
Ash Dixon, Nathan Harris, Tyrel Lomax, Ben May, Marcel Renata, Ross Wright, Tom Franklin, Pari Pari Parkinson, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Whetu Douglas, Elliot Dixon, Akira Ioane, Mitchell Karpik, Reed Prinsep,
Bryn Hall, Jonathan Ruru, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Otere Black, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Fletcher Smith, Alex Nankivell, Rob Thompson, Teihorangi Walden, Jordan Hyland, Shaun Stevenson, Sean Wainui.