June 27, 2024

Six to debut for the Māori All Blacks v Japan XV

Six players are in-line to make their debut for the Māori All Blacks in game one against Japan XV this Saturday, 10.00pm NZST (7.00pm JST) kick-off at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo.

Laghlan McWhannell (Ngāti Kahungunu), Rivez Reihana (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa), Daniel Rona (Te Ātiawa) and Cole Forbes (Ngāti Awa) were named in the starting XV, while utility forward Max Hicks (Ngāti Ranginui) and outside back Tana Tuhakaraina (Ngāti Hauā) will impress off the bench.

Tuhakaraina proudly hails from the Matamata region and trained with the Chiefs this year as a replacement player. His selection was also based on his consistency over consecutive seasons in the Bunnings Warehouse National Provincial Championship under the leadership of current Māori All Blacks and Waikato Head Coach Ross Filipo (Muaūpoko).

McWhannell starts in lock alongside Isaia Walker-Leawere (Ngāti Porou) and Reihana will steer the ship under an accurate boot alongside versatile halfback Sam Nock (Ngāpuhi). Rona occupies centre covering the midfield with Quinn Tupaea (Ngaati Tiipa, Ngaati Amaru, Waikato).

The winger combo of Bailyn Sullivan (Ngāti Kahungunu) and Josh Moorby (Ngāti Maniapoto) will bring speed to the back three with Forbes named in fullback.

Highlanders and Canterbury’s Billy Harmon (Ngāi Tahu) was named openside flanker beside Cullen Grace (Ngāti Whakaue) in No.8 and Cameron Suafoa (Ngāpuhi) blindside.

Crusaders veteran Joe Moody (Ngāi Tahu) is set to make his Māori All Blacks return as starting loosehead prop with Blues tighthead Marcel Renata (Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāi Takoto) and hooker Kurt Eklund (Ngāti Kahu).

Māori All Blacks Head Coach Ross Filipo congratulated the six debutants and anticipates a fast paced game against the Japanese.

“They are all fully deserving of their selections. I’m really excited for them and their whānau it’s going to be a massive occasion whether they’ve travelled to watch or are watching at home. To cap five debutants in one game is awesome for the team’s growth and I know they will all make a great contribution.

“We are expecting a high tempo match and we know they have had plenty of preparation time so we will have to be at our best from the very beginning. We are looking forward to the challenge and the team is ready to go,” Filipo said.

Filipo and the coaching staff will announce their kāpene (captain) at a special team session later this evening.

Māori All Blacks v Japan XV Game 1: *denotes debut
1. Joe Moody (Ngāi Tahu)
2. Kurt Eklund (Ngāti Kahu)
3. Marcel Renata (Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāi Takoto)
4. Isaia Walker-Leawere (Ngāti Porou)
5. Laghlan McWhannell* (Ngāti Kahungunu)
6. Cameron Suafoa (Ngāpuhi)
7. Billy Harmon (Ngāi Tahu)
8. Cullen Grace (Ngāti Whakaue)
9. Sam Nock (Ngāpuhi)
10. Rivez Reihana* (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa)
11. Bailyn Sullivan (Ngāti Kahungunu)
12. Quinn Tupaea (Ngaati Tiipa, Ngaati Amaru, Waikato)
13. Daniel Rona* (Te Ātiawa)
14. Josh Moorby (Ngāti Maniapoto)
15. Cole Forbes* (Ngāti Awa)

16. Tyrone Thompson (Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri)
17. Ollie Norris (Ngāpuhi)
18. Pouri Rakete-Stones (Ngāpuhi)
19. Max Hicks* (Ngāti Ranginui)
20. Te Kamaka Howden (Tūhoe)
21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Ngāti Rangitihi, Ngāti Pikiao, Tūhourangi, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Awa)
22. Rameka Poihipi (Ngāti Whakaue)
23. Tana Tuhakaraina* (Ngāti Hauā)

Six to debut for the Māori All Blacks v Japan XV