New Zealand Rugby
Messam to lead New Zealand Maori
May 30, 2010
The Chiefs' Liam Messam has been handed the New Zealand Maori captaincy for their centenary season © Getty Images
Coach Jamie Joseph believes the special nature of the New Zealand Maori will help compensate for a tight preparation schedule for their three-match centenary programme.
A 26-man squad named today will assemble on June 7 for their opening fixture against the New Zealand Barbarians in Whangarei on June 12. They go on to face Ireland in Rotorua on June 18 and England in Napier on June 23.
"We don't have a lot time to prepare them from a technical point of view," Joseph said. "But the uniqueness of the team, and the fact that the guys really enjoy playing for the Maori side, will hopefully be enough to get us over the line."
With the All Blacks getting first choice on players, Joseph was happy with the quality that he had available to choose from, describing his squad as a blend of new players with plenty of experience. Twelve in the line-up are debutants to the Maori side, including two who haven't played Super 14 rugby -- Manawatu halfback Aaron Smith and Wellington lock Daniel Ramsey. Balanced against that are six players with Test experience -- captain Liam Messam, fellow loose forward Tanerau Latimer, winger Hosea Gear, inside back Luke McAlister, lock Isaac Ross and hooker Corey Flynn.
A big challenge will come in the exchanges up front against England, but Joseph believed he had the forwards to match the traditionally strong English set piece. "I hope so, it will be a hard day at the office if we can't," he said. "Our tight five all come from Super 14 rugby so we have a pretty solid pack and I think we will hold our own."
Joseph said the 100th anniversary of Maori rugby would be a big motivational boost for the players. "The guys are aware that it's a big year for us," he said. "It's a big year for their families, their whanau and for Maoridom in general."
But on a personal level, the matches also represented a chance for players to impress the Test selectors. "It's about celebrating Maori rugby but, having said that, the guys are also playing for All Blacks places," Joseph said. "If I create the right environment for them to excel, then I'll be pretty happy."
New Zealand Maori squad:-
Backs: Stephen Brett (Canterbury), Hosea Gear (Wellington), Jarrad Hoeata (Taranaki), Sean Maitland (Canterbury), Luke McAlister (North Harbour), Willie Ripia (Taranaki), Robbie Robinson (Southland), Aaron Smith (Manawatu), Chris Smylie (North Harbour), Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato), Andre Taylor (Manawatu), Jackson Willison (Waikato).
Forwards: Ben Afeaki (North Harbour), Colin Bourke (Bay of Plenty), Dane Coles (Wellington), Jacob Ellison (Wellington), Corey Flynn (Canterbury), Romana Graham (Waikato), Tanerau Latimer (Bay of Plenty), Karl Lowe (Hawke's Bay), Liam Messam (Waikato, captain), Bronson Murray (Northland), Clint Newland (Hawke's Bay), Daniel Ramsey (Wellington), Isaac Ross (Canterbury), Hayden Triggs (Otago).