Eight new caps have been named in the Maori All Blacks side for their clash with Canada on Saturday afternoon, writes NZ Herald
The majority of the debutants will come off the bench, with just Jackson Hemopo getting a start at lock.
Shaun Stevenson, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Sam Henwood, Jordan Manihera, Tyrel Lomax, Ross Wright and Liam Polwart to debut off the bench.
Head Coach Clayton McMillan said they had high expectations of a good performance on a quick track at BC Place, the venue for the fixture.
“Everyone who is here deserves their opportunity to represent the Maori All Blacks and while they may be lacking for a bit of experience at this level, they certainly make up for it in enthusiasm, and I am really happy with the way the team has bonded.
“We don’t see it as a starting 15 and eight off the bench – it’s a full squad of 27 with everyone including those boys not playing, working to help us prepare,” he said.
McMillan said selecting Charlie Ngatai at fullback had been a calculated choice after discussion with Ngatai’s Taranaki and former Maori All Blacks Coach, Colin Cooper.
“We had a policy of selecting our backline around versatility and people who can play multiple positions, and we were limited by the numbers we could bring on tour.
“Charlie’s got great experience, great comms, a big boot, and he’ll be very good for the younger guys.”
The venue for Friday night’s match will be played in front of a sell-out 29,000 fans, and the match promises to be played at pace, McMillan predicted. It will be the largest audience in Canada for a single game of 15s rugby.
“Canada is playing at home, it’s a unique stadium with roof and astro turf, so it will be fast, matched with physicality. They have a big pack and strong carrying backs so we expect a tough battle,” McMillan said.
Maori All Blacks: Chris Eves, Ash Dixon, Marcel Renata, Jackson Hemopo, Jarra Hoeata, Tom Franklin, Dan Pryor, Akira Ioane, Brad Weber, Ihaia West, Ambrose Curtis, Rob Thompson, Tim Bateman, Sean Wainui, Charlie Ngatai.
Reserves: Liam Polwart, Ross Wright, Tyrel Lomax, Jordan Manihera, Sam Henwood, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Shaun Stevenson.