Māori All Blacks team named for first match against Fiji

By James Perry

Clayton McMillan has named five debutants in his first Māori All Blacks team of the year as the side looks to take on Fiji on their home soil. 

Hurricanes player Fletcher Smith (Ngāti Kahungunu) will start the match at fullback, the other four will come off the bench.

They include 20-test All Black Nathan Harris (Ngāti Hikairo, Waikato), Waikato prop Haereiti Hetet (Ngāti Maniapoto), Chiefs midfielder Alex Nankivell (Ngāpuhi) and Highlanders injury replacement back Jordan Hyland (Ngāi Tahu).

McMillan says his selections reflect how his side sees the game being played this week. 

"We have a proud tradition of playing the passionate and highly skilful Fijians.  We have relished every one of our 29 encounters and I know that, ranked in the world top 10, Fiji will be playing with more than one eye on their Rugby World Cup campaign.

"We know we will need the strike power of our reserves and it’s exciting to think we have the likes of Nathan Harris, Pari Pari Parkinson, Marcel Renata, Whetu Douglas, Alex Nankivell and Bryn Hall sitting on the bench."

The Māori All Blacks hold a 20 win, 2 draw, 7 loss record.  Fiji have not beaten the team since 1957 but are confident they can break that drought this weekend in what is expected to be hot and humid conditions at Suva's National Stadium.

The team is:

1. Ross Wright, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Porou, (Northland).

2. Ash Dixon (Captain) Ngāti Tahinga, (Hawkes Bay/Highlanders).

3. Tyrel Lomax, Ngāi Tuhoe, Muaūpoko, (Tasman/Highlanders).

4. Isaia Walker-Leawere, Ngāti Porou, (Hawke’s Bay/Hurricanes).

5. Tom Franklin, Ngāti Maniāpoto, (Bay of Plenty/Highlanders).

6. Reed Prinsep, Te Rarawa, (Canterbury/Hurricanes).

7. Mitch Karpik, ROngomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu (Bay of Plenty/Chiefs).

8. Akira Ioane, Ngāpuhi, Te Whānau a Apanui, (Auckland/Blues).

9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Ngāti Pikiao, (Taranaki/Chiefs).

10. Otere Black, Ngāi Tūhoe, Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, (Manawatū/Blues).

11. Sean Wainui, Ngāi Tuhoe, Te Āitanga a Māhaki, Ngā Ariki Kaiputahi, Ngāti Porou, (Taranaki/Chiefs).

12. Teihorangi Walden, Te Atiawa, (Taranaki/Highlanders).

13. Rob Thompson, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngā Rauru, (Manawatū/Highlanders).

14. Shaun Stevenson, Ngāpuhi, (North Harbour, Chiefs).

15. Fletcher Smith*, Ngāti Kahungunu, (Waikato, Hurricanes).

RESERVES:

16. Nathan Harris*, Ngāti Hikairo, Waikato-Tainui, (Bay of Plenty, Chiefs).

17. Haereiti Hetet*, Ngāti Maniapoto, (Waikato).

18. Marcel Renata, Ngāti Whānaunga, Ngāi Takoto, (Auckland/Blues).

19. Pari Pari Parkinson, Te Whānau ā Apanui (Tasman, Highlanders).

20 Whetukamokamo Douglas, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whakaue, (Canterbury/Crusaders)

21 Bryn Hall, Ngāti Ranginui, (North Harbour/Crusaders)

22 Alex Nankivell*, Ngāpuhi, (Tasman/Chiefs)

23 Jordan Hyland*, Ngāi Tahu, (Northland)