Cape Town - Chiefs centre Charlie Ngatai has been selected at fullback
for Friday's encounter with Canada in the tourists' first ever match in
Eight new caps have been named in the side with Manawatu’s Jackson
Hemopo getting a start at lock, and Shaun Stevenson, Jackson
Garden-Bachop, Sam Henwood, Jordan Manihera, Tyrel Lomax, Ross Wright
and Liam Polwart to debut off the bench.
Maori All Blacks 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. “We’re pretty happy with how things are ticking along, we’ve had some good training," he said.
“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 XV and eight off the bench - it’s a
full squad of 27 with everyone including those boys not playing, working
to help us prepare.”
McMillan said selecting 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 XVs 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.”
Maori All Blacks
15 Charlie Ngatai, 14 Sean Wainui,
13 Tim Bateman, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Ambrose Curtis, 10 Ihaia West, 9
Brad Weber, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Tom Franklin, 5 Jarrad Hoeata,
4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Chris Eves
Substitutes: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Ross Wright, 18 Tyrel
Lomax, 19 Jordan Manihere, 20 Sam Henwood, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi,
22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Shaun Stevenson