Weber and Perenara to lead strong Maori All Blacks side against Ireland
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: All Blacks scrumhalves Brad Weber and TJ Perenara have been named as Maori All Blacks co-captains for Wednesday’s clash against Ireland in Hamilton.
Both players, who missed out on All Blacks selection earlier this month, were unveiled as co-captains on Monday as Maori All Blacks boss Clayton McMillan named his side to face the Irish in what will be the first match of their five-game New Zealand tour.
Weber has been handed starting honours ahead of Perenara, who is one of ten players primed to make their Maori All Blacks debuts at Waikato Stadium.
One of those players is another All Black in the form of one-Test utility forward Cullen Grace, who has been named to start at No.8 following his late inclusion in the Maori All Blacks squad after a string of standout showings for the Crusaders.
Grace is joined by Blues blindside flank Cameron Suafoa as one of two loose forward debutants, while Highlanders outside back Connor Garden-Bachop and Blues fullback Zarn Sullivan have also been named to make their starting Maori All Blacks debuts.
Despite having started most of the Super Rugby Pacific season at fullback, Garden-Bachop has been selected on the left wing, with Sullivan picked to start at No 15.
Sullivan is accompanied by his older brother and Hurricanes midfielder Bailyn Sullivan in making his Maori All Blacks debut.
Bailyn Sullivan joins Perenara as two of six uncapped Maori All Blacks named on the bench, alongside Chiefs hooker Tyrone Thompson, Highlanders prop Jermaine Ainsley, Hurricanes loose forward TK Howden and Hurricanes utility back Ruben Love.
The selection of Ainsley brings with it plenty of intrigue given the 26-year-old is a former Wallabies tighthead prop, having played three tests for Australia in 2018.
Other notable inclusions throughout the Maori All Blacks side includes the selection of one-Test All Blacks playmaker Josh Ioane at flyhalf, while discarded All Blacks prop Tyrel Lomax has been named to start at tighthead prop.
McMillan said in a statement released on Monday that the inclusions of Weber and Perenara is vital for the Maori All Blacks due to their leadership qualities.
“Having Weber and Perenara as co-captains ensures there is always strong leadership on the field, especially against the unrelenting Ireland side,” McMillan said.
“For our debut players, this will be a proud moment to not only represent this team, but their whanau and their iwi.”
Maori All Blacks: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Rameka Poihipi, 11 Connor Garden-Bachop, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Brad Weber (co-captain), 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Cameron Suafoa, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Ollie Norris.
Replacements: 16 Tyrone Thompson, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 TK Howden, 21 TJ Perenara (co-captain), 22 Ruben Love, 23 Bailyn Sullivan.
Date: Wednesday, June 29
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.05 (08.05 UK & Ireland time; 07.05 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Jordan Way Graham Cooper
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen
By Alex McLeod, @RugbyPass
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) June 26, 2022