Maori All Blacks v Samoa - Teams & Predictions
NO FANS: The Māori All Blacks will host Manu Samoa at Sky Stadium in Wellington on Saturday, June 26 as they kick off the Test season in New Zealand.
The fixture will be played in an empty stadium due to the Government’s change in alert levels for the capital.
Wellington will move to alert level 2 following a Covid-19 positive traveller from Australia who spent last weekend in the city.
Under alert level 2 restrictions, public gatherings of over 100 are prohibited
Maori All Blacks Head Coach Clayton McMillan has named two debutants for the Maori All Blacks’ opening clash of the year against Samoa in Wellington.
Highlanders lock Josh Dickson and Tasman loose forward Jacob Norris – a late addition to the squad and older brother of teammate Ollie Norris – will both make their debuts off the bench for the New Zealand representative side.
The starting pack features an experienced front row of Hurricanes loosehead prop Pouri Rakete-Stones, Highlanders tighthead Josh Hohneck and Kapene (captain) Ash Dixon at hooker. Blues rate Kurt Eklund, Super Rugby teammate Marcel Renata and Crusaders Rookie of the Year Tamaiti Williams will provide impact off the bench.
The duo of Manaaki Selby-Rickit and Isaia Walker-Leawere will combine in the second row with Dickson poised to make his first appearance off the bench after performing admirably for the Highlanders over the past two seasons.
Dickson’s Highlanders teammate, Pari Pari Parkinson, suffered a head knock in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final and wasn’t eligible for selection but should be available for next week.
All three loose forwards are Canterbury representatives with Reed Prinsep and Billy Harmon named on the flanks and Whetukamokamo Douglas starting at number 8.
In the backs, Bryn Hall and Otere Black will combine in the halves, having forged a strong combination for the Maori All Blacks in the past. Halfback Sam Nock and All Blacks flyhalf Josh Ioane will provide cover on the bench.
Chiefs midfielder Alex Nankivell will team up with young Hurricane Billy Proctor in the centres.
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In the outside backs, it’s all-Chiefs combination of Sean Wainui, Shaun Stevenson, and Kaleb Trask with teammate Jonah Lowe to be injected off the bench.
Head coach McMillan is expecting a physically tough showdown from Manu Samoa in Wellington.
“We are anticipating a competitive challenge from our Samoan brothers on Saturday. They are a physical team, with a threatening attack. We know they would have prepared well and will be excited for the challenge ahead.”
“It will be a great opportunity for us to showcase Maori rugby. We have an experienced and talented group of individuals who are continuing to push for higher honours. This is their opportunity to put their hand up.
“It will be a really proud moment for Josh and Jacob to not only represent this team, but their whanau and their iwi.”
It has been 28 years since the Maori All Blacks last played in Wellington, when they hosted the British and Irish Lions in 1993 at Athletic Park. McMillan said the team are excited to take the field in New Zealand’s capital once more – despite the lack of crowd due to COVID precautions.
“While this week has had its challenges, we have continued to prepare well and there is some excitement among the team to play in Wellington,” he said. “We are obviously disappointed we are unable to perform in front of our whanau and pa (fans), but we still want to deliver a performance they can be proud of.”
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@rugby365com: Maori All Blacks to win by seven points
Maori All Blacks: 15 Kaleb Trask, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Sean Wainui, 10 Otere Black, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Pouri Rakete-Stones.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Jacob Norris, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Jonah Lowe.
Manu Samoa: 15 Tomasi Alosio, 14 Johnny Vaili, 13 Losi Filipo, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Neria Fomai, 10 Rodney Iona, 9 Dwayne Polatataiva, 8 Olajuwon Noa, 7 Jack Lam (Captain), 6 Henry Time-Stower, 5 Samuel Slade, 4 Benjamin Nee-Nee, 3 Kalolo Tuiloma, 2 Ray Niuia, 1 Albert Anae.
Replacements: 16 JP Sauni, 17 Jonah Aoina, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Teofilo Paulo, 20 Theo McFarland, 21 Auvasa Falealii, 22 Stacey Ili, 23 Elisapeta Alofipi
Date: Saturday, June 26
Venue: Sky Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.05 (07.05 GMT; 20.05 WST)
Assistant Referees: TBC