This Saturday in Rotorua, the Maori All Blacks will face off against the Lions in one of the most anticipated non-test rugby matches in living memory.
The announcing of the sides was done today, and it would be fair to say that the Lions are using this as a dry run for the upcoming tests. They have selected their strongest possible lineup.
— British&Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) June 15, 2017
The Maori All Blacks have also chosen a phenomenally imposing side for this game against the Lions; one of rugby’s greatest challenges.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) June 15, 2017
Key players for the Maori All Blacks
Many rugby fans internationally would deem Damian McKenzie’s exclusion from the All Blacks squad a shock, or even a waste of talent. However, McKenzie has been selected to represent the Maori in what will be his third game for the prestigious side. He is leading Super Rugby in multiple areas, hence proving his class. He is playing out of position at fly-half, but expect him to transition to fullback when Ihaia West comes on.
Liam Messam is All Black number 1082. But since the 2015 Rugby World Cup, he has fallen out of favour with the world’s best team. His decision to aim for the Rio Olympics through Sevens, only to not make the team, proved pivotal towards dampening his chances of even donning an All Blacks jersey again. Despite this, Messam is very proud of his Maori history, so will give everything on Saturday as he has been named to start at Number 8.
On the 25th October 2016, Dixon was awarded for his efforts within the Maori squad, with the captaincy. The Highlanders hooker shows plenty of passion while playing for the Maori, so expect to see more of this on Saturday. He will be tested at line-out time but should show his class and step up. His strong leadership will prove invaluable to help his team lift. If Dixon can motivate his team throughout the game, then this side should be able to hold their own.
This coming Saturday, the Lions face their toughest challenge to date. The Maori All Blacks will be big, they will be fast, and will by no means be push-overs. But the Lions have named arguably their strongest side, out of respect for this enormous challenge.
The game will be won in the forwards and the Lions, on paper have the better forward pack. But if the Maori All Blacks forwards can get close to parity then their backs have every opportunity to twist, turn and outsmart the Lions. The Lions will have to take their defensive effort up another notch from the Crusaders game and suffocate the backs if they are to stand any chance.
This game could go down in history as one of the greats. The teams that have been selected are suggesting it will be. Whatever happens, it is going to be special so it is time to get excited!
Maori All Blacks Squad
Chris Eves, Kane Hames, Mike Kainga, Ben May, Marcel Renata, Ash Dixon (c), Hika Elliot, Tom Franklin, Leighton Price, Joe Wheeler, Elliot Dixon, Akira Ioane, Liam Messam, Reed Prinsep, Kara Pryor, Bryn Hall, Otere Black, Ihaia West, Tim Bateman, Charlie Ngatai, Matt Proctor, Rieko Ioane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Declan O’Donnell, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Damian McKenzie, James Lowe, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
Author: Finn Morton
To say I’m obsessed with sport is an understatement. It was due to this passion that I realised a career in sports journalism was the way to go. I’m looking to spread my passion for sport whilst gaining some valuable experience.