Cooper names strong Maori ABs squad

Date published: June 30 2015

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Maori All Blacks head coach Colin Cooper has named his squad to compete in matches against Fiji and the New Zealand Barbarians next month.

The 27-man squad features 10 new caps and will again be captained by Chiefs back Charlie Ngatai.

The squad's new members are: Quentin MacDonald, Josh Hohneck, Jacob Skeen, Akira Ioane, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Otere Black, Sean Wainui, Rieko Ioane, Codey Rei.

The Maori All Blacks face Fiji in Suva on July 11 before taking on the New Zealand Barbarians at Eden Park in Auckland on July 18.

Cooper said the 2015 squad was an exciting mix of experienced hands and promising young talent. It includes 13 players who took part in last year’s tour to Japan and three members of the successful New Zealand U20 team which won the recent World Championship title in Italy.

“This is a well-balanced side with some very experienced campaigners who have now played on several tours and know our systems well," he told allblacks.com

"I'll be expecting them to lead by example and show the new boys the high standards we expect.

“We have a proud record of success to uphold and I am sure this side will work hard to honour the great legacy of the Maori All Blacks,” said Cooper.

“It is very pleasing to introduce some exciting new talent to the 2015 side. Akira Ioane has really impressed with the Blues this year and both he, Otere Black and Sean Wainui are coming off the great win for New Zealand U20 at the World Championship in Italy so I am sure they will want to carry on that form. 

"Rieko Ioane will also provide great pace out wide and he's hugely matured with the All Blacks Sevens this year despite still only being 18 years old.

“We've also seen how well Damian McKenzie has equipped himself in his first season at the Chiefs which is a huge test for any young man.

"He's shown incredible maturity so he along with his brother Marty who toured with us last year, will strengthen the backline.” 

Cooper urged fans to support the Maori All Blacks at Eden Park.

“We're really looking forward to this tour," he added.

"These players have a great opportunity to test their skills against a tough international opponent in Fiji as it looks to build for the Rugby World Cup and the Barbarians match will also be a stiff contest.

“We hope fans come out and support the Maori All Blacks at home as we haven’t played in New Zealand since 2010. This is a top chance to see some of the best players in the country test their skills against what we expect to be a very strong Barbarians side.

“We know the Barbarians also have a proud reputation to uphold like us so I think fans will be in for a great display of attacking rugby. 

"It’s also a huge opportunity for players to continue to press for selection for the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad so there will be a lot at stake. It should be a fantastic match.”

2014 Maori All Blacks squad members not available because of injury were; Tom Franklin, Mike Kainga, James Lowe, Sean Polwart, Dan Pryor and Joe Webber.

The squad departs for Fiji on Wednesday 8 July.

Maori All Blacks squad:

Forwards: Joe Royal, Ash Dixon, Quentin MacDonald, Chris Eves, Brendon Edmonds, Josh Hohneck, Ben May, Hayden Triggs, Jacob Skeen, Blade Thomson, Shane Christie, Elliot Dixon, Akira Ioane, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Mitchell Crosswell.

Backs: Jamison Gibson-Park, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Otere Black, Jason Emery, Charlie Ngatai (c), Sean Wainui, Kurt Baker, Rieko Ioane, Marty McKenzie, Matt Proctor, Codey Rei.

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