Māori All Blacks to play Fiji
The Māori All Blacks will play 2 games against Fiji in July. The first game will be played on Saturday, 13 July in Suva (kick-off 3.00pm NZT), and the second on Saturday, 20 July in Rotorua (kick-off 7.35pm). Before the Rotorua game, there will be a curtain raiser between NZ Māori U20 and Fiji U20 (kick-off 5.00pm).
2019 Māori All Blacks coaching staff
Māori All Blacks Head Coach is once again Clayton McMillan (Bay of Plenty). Presumably there is also no change in the rest of the coaching set-up that was in place for the tour to the USA, Brazil and Chile in November 2018. Roger Randle (Waikato Assistant Coach) and Joe Maddock (Canterbury Head Coach) assisted McMillan during that tour. This coaching group was also in charge of the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians against the British & Irish Lions in 2017.
The 2019 Māori All Blacks squad
As noted in my blog post about the Māori All Blacks' tour to the Americas, in previous years there was quite a bit of criticism of the selection of the squad. The squad of 2018 looked more balanced, however, they played opponents that were relatively weak (World Rankings: USA 15th; Brazil 26th and Chile 29th) compared to the opposition they're facing this year. Fiji is currently ranked 9th in the World, so the upcoming games are going to be a big challenge!
For this blog post, I've once again looked at the availability of players who have been capped for the Māori All Blacks since 2012.
CAPPED PLAYERS (2012-2018), WHO ARE (PROBABLY) NOT/NO LONGER AVAILABLE
Jacob Ellison - Kurita Water Gush (Japan)
Kane Hames - injured
Josh Hohneck - Gloucester
Joe Moody - All Blacks
Ben Afeaki - retired
Nick Barrett - retired
Brendon Edmonds - retired
Mike Kainga - unknown
Bronson Murray (also LH) - retired
Robbie Abel - Melbourne Rebels (so probably ineligible)
Hika Elliott - Nevers
Quentin MacDonald - Oyonnax
Liam Polwart - injured?
Codie Taylor - All Blacks
Jason Eaton - retired
Romana Graham - unknown
Jarrad Hoeata - retired?
Luke Katene - unknown
Hoani Matenga - rehabbing from surgery approx 5 months ago (back in the gym)
Keepa Mewett - NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes
Jacob Skeen - Ricoh Black Rams
Blade Thomson - Scarlets (also 6/8)
Hayden Triggs - retired
Joe Wheeler - Suntory Sungoliath
Luke Braid - retired?
Shane Christie - retired
Joe Edwards - Provence
Sam Henwood - injured
Antonio Kirikiri - Yorkshire Carnegie
Tanerau Latimer - retired
Jordan Manihera - only just returned from San Diego Legion (may not be eligible)
Liam Messam - Toulon
Sean Polwart - retired
Dan Pryor - Sunwolves/Sanix Blues
Kara Pryor - Sunwolves
Liam Squire - All Blacks
Blade Thompson - Scarlets (also lock)
Jamison Gibson-Park - Leinster
Billy Guyton - retired
Tawera Kerr-Barlow - La Rochelle
Sam Nock - injured?
Chris Smylie - unknown/retired
Brad Weber / Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi - one of them will probably be in the All Blacks squad
Frae Wilson - retired?
Damian McKenzie - injured
Willie Ripia - retired?
Ihaia West - La Rochelle
Jason Emery - Sunwolves/Sanix Blues
Charlie Ngatai - Lyon
Jackson Willison - Bath
Kurt Baker - injured?
Ambrose Curtis - Wasps
Rieko Ioane - All Blacks
James Lowe - Leinster
Damian McKenzie - injured
Nehe Milner-Skudder - injured
Kade Poki - Anglet Olympique (Fédérale 1, France)
Codey Rei - Kamaishi Seawaves (Japan)
Robbie Robinson - Ricoh Black Rams
Squad size and factors complicating selection
In 2015, when the Māori All Blacks played Fiji and NZ Barbarians in pre-World Cup games, as well as in 2017, when they played the B&I Lions, the squad consisted of 26 players (15 forwards and 12 backs).
There are two other factors to be taken into account. The first factor is the date of the Super Rugby Final (Saturday, 6 July), only a week before the first game against Fiji. It seems unlikely that players involved in the Super Rugby Final will be available for that first game. That's likely to affect the availability of Bryn Hall and Whetu Douglas, but not Billy Harmon, who's unlikely to play in the Final.
The second factor is that in previous years, these Māori All Blacks games have been used to give game time to players in the (wider) All Blacks squad. Either because they hadn't played for a while, weren't first choice players (so weren't likely to get much game time for the All Blacks), or were still competing for a spot in the All Blacks squad.
These two factors are not likely to affect the selection of the Māori All Blacks squad itself, but will probably affect the match day squads, especially of the first match against Fiji. For example, if Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi is picked for the All Blacks, he could possibly get game time in the first Māori All Blacks game, because he's had so little game time during the Super Rugby season (and Bryn Hall is unavailable).
It is less likely to affect the match day squad for the second Māori All Blacks game, because this game will be played in the same weekend as the first Rugby Championship test of the All Blacks against the Pumas in Buenos Aires. All Blacks involved in the Super Rugby Final are unlikely to travel to Argentina for this first test, so all other players will probably be on the plane to South America.
PLAYERS TO BE CONSIDERED FOR THE 2019 MĀORI ALL BLACKS SQUAD
PROPS (number of spots: 4 or 5 (2015 and 2017, respectively))
LH - capped
Ross Wright (Northland) - also hooker
Chris Eves (Hurricanes/North Harbour)
LH -other candidates
TH - capped
Tyrel Lomax (Highlanders/Tasman) - unless named in All Blacks squad
Ben May (Hurricanes/Hawke's Bay) - also LH
Marcel Renata (Blues/Auckland)
TH - other candidates
Sean Paranihi (Manawatu, assuming he has returned from Hong Kong) - was a late addition to the squad in 2017, but did not play
Pouri Rakete-Stones (Hawke's Bay) - spent tme in camp in 2017, but did not play
Coree Te Whata-Colley (Counties Manukau)
Tamaiti Williams - 2019 NZ U20 Māori (not sure whether he's Maori)
My picks: Chris Eves, Tyrel Lomax (if available), Ben May and Marcel Renata. Also Ross Wright if they take a fifth prop.
HOOKERS (number of spots: 3 (2015) or 2 (2017)
Ash Dixon (Highlanders/Hawke's Bay)
Leni Apisai (Blues/Wellington)
Joe Royal (Counties Manukau/Ponsonby)
Kianu Kereru-Symes (NZU20s/Hawke's Bay) - also prop - may be named in NZ Māori U20 squad
My picks: Ash Dixon and Leni Apisai. Third hooker: Kianu Kereru-Symes (or Ross Wright, but I prefer a young player over a 30+ player as the frontow is already quite old)
LOCKS (number of spots: 3 (2015 and 2017)
Nick Croswell (Manawatu)
Tom Franklin (Highlanders/Kobelco Steelers) - unless named in All Blacks squad or expected in Japan
Jackson Hemopo (Highlanders/Mitsubishi DynaBoars) - unless named in All Blacks squad or expected in Japan
Leighton Price (Taranaki)
Isaia Walker-Leawere (Hurricanes/Hawke's Bay)
Pari Pari Parkinson (Highlanders/Tasman)
Matiaha Martin (Counties Manukau)
Jesse Parete (Chiefs/Taranaki) - lock or 6
Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Southland)
My picks: Jackson Hemopo (if available), Pari Pari Parkinson and Isaia Walker-Leawere. In case Hemopo is unavailable, and Franklin is available: Tom Franklin. If neither Hemopo or Franklin is available: Jesse Parete.
LOOSE FORWARDS (number of spots: 5 (2015 and 2017)
Heiden Bedwell-Curtis - (Hurricanes/Inglewood Utd RFC)
Mitchell Crosswell (Taranaki/Tukapa)
Elliott Dixon (Highlanders/Ricoh Black Rams) - unless expected in Japan - 6 or 8
Whetu Douglas (Crusaders/Canterbury) - 6 or 8
Billy Harmon (Crusaders/Canterbury) - 7
Akira Ioane (Blues/Auckland) - unless named in All Blacks squad - 6 or 8
Mitch Karpik (Chiefs/Bay of Plenty) - 7
Reed Prinsep (Hurricanes/Canterbury) - 6 or 8
Jesse Parete (Chiefs/Taranaki) - 6 or lock
My picks: Whetu Douglas, Billy Harmon, Akira Ioane, Reed Prinsep and Mitch Karpik. In case, Ioane is unavailable: Elliott Dixon; if Dixon is also unavailable: Jesse Parete (if not already included as a lock). If things really turn to custard: Heiden Bedwell-Curtis.
HALFBACKS (number of spots: 2 (2015 and 2017)
Bryn Hall (Crusaders/North Harbour)
Jonathan Ruru (Blues/Auckland)
Brad Weber (Chiefs/Hawke's Bay) - unless named in All Blacks squad
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Chiefs/Taranaki) - unless named in All Blacks squad
Ereatara Enari (Crusaders/Canterbury)
My picks: whoever of Brad Weber and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi has not been named in the All Blacks squad, and Bryn Hall. If Weber and Tahuriorangi are both named in the All Blacks squad: Ruru or Enari
FIRST FIVE-EIGHTHS (number of spots: 2 (2015 and 2017)
Otere Black (Blues/Manawatu)
Jackson Garden-Bachop (Hurricanes/Wellington)
Josh Ioane (Highlanders/Otago) - unless named in All Blacks squad
Marty McKenzie (Chiefs/Taranaki) - also fullback
My picks: Josh Ioane and Otere Black. If Ioane is unavailable: Marty McKenzie
MIDFIELDERS (number of spots: 3 (2015) - 5 (2017)
Tim Bateman (Crusaders) - unless he's returning to Japan
Matt Proctor (Hurricanes/Northhampton Saints) - unless already expected at Northhampton Saints
Rob Thompson (Highlanders/Manawatu)
Teihorangi Walden (Highlanders/Taranaki)
Sean Wainui (Chiefs/Taranaki)
Orbyn Leger (Chiefs/Counties Manukau) (if he's Māori)
Billy Proctor (Hurricanes/NZU20/Wellington) - may be named in NZ Māori U20 squad
Quinn Tupaea (NZU20/Waikato) - may be named in NZ Māori U20 squad
My picks: in any case, Walden and Thompson; if available, also Matt Proctor, if not: Bateman (can cover 10). If they're taking more than 3 midfielders: Wainui (can cover wing). A fifth pick could be Billy Proctor.
OUTSIDE BACKS (number of spots: 5 (2015) or 3 (2017)
Zac Guildford (Waikato?/Fraser Tech)
Matthew Lansdown (Waikato/club rugby?)
Jonah Lowe (Hurricanes/Hawke's Bay)
Marty McKenzie (Chiefs/Taranaki)
Declan O'Donnell (Waikato/club rugby?)
Trent Renata (Wellington/Oriental-Rongotai)
Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs/North Harbour)
Andre Taylor (Manawatu/College Old Boys)
Sean Wainui (Chiefs/Taranaki) - also midfield
Regan Ware (AB7s/Taranaki)
Joe Webber (AB7s/Bay of Plenty?)
My picks: Jonah Lowe, Shaun Stevenson and Regan Ware. If not already included as a midfielder: also Sean Wainui. If not already included as a first five-eighth: also Marty McKenzie.
My picks would result in the following squad:
- Tyrel Lomax (if available), Chris Eves, Ben May and Marcel Renata (if Lomax is unavailable, or if they take a fifth prop instead of a third hooker: Ross Wright)
- Ash Dixon and Leni Apisai (if they take a third hooker instead of a fifth prop: Kianu Kereru-Symes)
- Jackson Hemopo, Pari Pari Parkinson and Isaia Walker-Leawere (if Hemopo is unavailable: Tom Franklin)
- Whetu Douglas, Billy Harmon, Akira Ioane, Reed Prinsep and Mitch Karpik
- Elliott Dixon (if Akira Ioane is unavailable)
- Jesse Parete (if both of Hemopo and Franklin, or both of Ioane and Dixon, are unavailable)
- Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (if both of Hemopo and Franklin, and both of Ioane and Dixon, are unavailable)
- Bryn Hall, and Brad Weber or Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Jonathan Ruru or Ere Enari if Weber and Tahuriorangi are both unavailable)
- Otere Black and Josh Ioane (if available)
- Rob Thompson, Teihorangi Walden and Matt Proctor (Bateman, if Proctor is unavailable).
- Jonah Lowe, Shaun Stevenson and Regan Ware
- Sean Wainui (fourth midfielder or fourth outside back)
- Marty McKenzie (extra outside back, if not included as first five-eighth instead of Josh Ioane)
- Quinn Tupaea (extra back, if McKenzie has been included as first five-eighth instead of Josh Ioane)
It is expected that the Māori All Blacks will be named on Tuesday, 2 July 2019 on Sky Sports 1 from 7.00pm.