Rotorua International Stadium is set to come alive when the Māori All Blacks take on the British & Irish Lions on Saturday.
Head Coach Colin Cooper named his side today to face the Lions in the fifth match of the DHL New Zealand Lions Series.
The team is (*denotes new cap);
1. Kane Hames – Tasman (Ngāi Tuhoe/Ngāti Porou)
2. Ash Dixon (captain) – Hawke’s Bay (Ngāti Tahinga)
3. Ben May – Hawke’s Bay (Ngāti Maniapoto/Tainui)
4. Joe Wheeler – Tasman (Ngāi Tahu)
5. Tom Franklin – Bay of Plenty (Ngāti Maniapoto)
6. Akira Ioane – Auckland (Ngāpuhi/Te Whānau ā Apanui)
7. Elliot Dixon – Southland (Ngāpuhi)
8. Liam Messam – Waikato (Ngāi Tūhoe)
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow – Waikato (Waikato/Ngāti Maniapoto)
10. Damian McKenzie – Waikato (Ngāti Tūwharetoa/Ngāti Tahinga)
11. Rieko Ioane – Auckland (Ngāpuhi/Te Whānau ā Apanui)
12. Charlie Ngatai – Taranaki (Ngāti Porou/Te Whānau ā Apanui/Te Whakatōhea)
13. Matt Proctor – Wellington (Ngāpuhi/Ngāiterangi)
14. Nehe Milner-Skudder – Manawatu (Ngāti Porou/Tapuika)
15. James Lowe – Tasman (Ngāpuhi/Ngāi Te Rangi)
16. Hikawera Elliot – Counties Manukau (Ngāti Awa)
17. Chris Eves – Manawatu (Waikato/Tainui)
18. Marcel Renata – Auckland (Ngāti Whānaunga/Te Aupouri
19. Leighton Price – Taranaki (Waikato/Ngāti Maniapoto)
20. Kara Pryor – Northland (Ngāti Awa/Ngāti Pikiao/Ngāti Rangitihi)
21. Bryn Hall* – North Harbour (Ngāti Ranginui)
22. Ihaia West – Hawke’s Bay (Ngāti Kahungunu/Ngāti Porou)
23. Rob Thompson* – Canterbury (Ngāti Kahungunu)
Hawke’s Bay’s Ash Dixon will captain the side which features just two new caps in reserves, Bryn Hall and Rob Thompson.
All Blacks Akira Ioane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Rieko Ioane have all been included in the starting line-up, which also features players Cooper said had adapted well to each other and the game plan throughout the week. This included starting Waikato’s Damian McKenzie at first five-eighth.
“We’ve named a strong group who all have good clarity on how we want to play this match against the Lions. We feel Damian will suit the game plan that we want to play, from the number 10 position.”
Cooper said he was pleased with the way the players had connected throughout the week.
“We experienced a powerful pōwhiri on Monday which really resonated with the boys and it’s been great to be here in Rotorua and feel all the support. It’s really lifted the team and helped bring them together as a unit.
“We recognize the challenge that is ahead of us on Saturday, but we’re really excited as a group by the opportunity we have to represent New Zealand, Māoridom and the fans that will descend on Rotorua this weekend.”
A media conference will be held at the Holiday Inn, Rotorua, at 4 pm today.