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Ireland last played the Māori All Blacks back in 2010.
Ireland last played the Māori All Blacks back in 2010.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Māori All Blacks add to squad for clash with Farrell's Ireland in Waikato

Cullen Grace, Sam Nock, and Max Hicks have joined Clayton McMillan’s group.
Jun 22nd 2022, 9:07 AM 12,525 3

THE MAORI ALL Blacks have added three more players to their squad ahead of next week’s clash with Andy Farrell’s Ireland in Waikato.

Clayton McMillan’s side will face Ireland next Wednesday 29 June at the FMG Stadium [KO 8.05am Irish time, Sky Sports] in the first of the tourists’ games on New Zealand soil. Farrell’s men will play the Māori All Blacks a second time on Tuesday 12 July.

McMillan named a 28-man squad last week – including full New Zealand internationals TJ Perenara, Brad Weber, Josh Ioane, and Tyrel Lomax – and has now bolstered the group with three more players. 

Back row Cullen Grace, who has one All Blacks cap to his name and helped the Crusaders to another Super Rugby title last weekend, comes into the mix, as do Blues scrum-half Sam Nock and Highlanders lock/back row Max Hicks.

“It’s great to have three quality additions to the wider squad,” said McMillian.

“We welcome back Sam Nock and the two debutants Cullen Grace and Max Hicks. These guys will give us more flexibility to prepare and put up our best performance against the top-tier team Ireland over the coming weeks.”

Next Wednesday’s game will be a fascinating challenge for Ireland three days out from the first Test against Ian Foster’s full All Blacks side.

Farrell will use his wider group in the first Māori All Blacks clash, with the uncapped quintet of Cian Prendergast, Ciarán Frawley, Joe McCarthy, Jimmy O’Brien, and Jeremy Loughman among those likely to get opportunities.

Ireland have only played the Māori All Blacks twice before, losing in 1888 and more recently in 2010, a game in which current Ireland captain Johnny Sexton kicked 23 points as the tourists lost 31-28 in Rotorua.

This year’s Māori group is likely to pose a strong challenge to Ireland, with plenty of talent throughout McMillan’s squad.

Perenara is the headline name after being omitted from the full All Blacks squad for the three-Test series, while fellow scrum-half Weber and tighthead prop Lomax also have big points to prove.

The front row options include the gigantic Tamaiti Williams, who has shown his promise for the Crusaders, and impressive Blues hooker Kurt Eklund.

The likes of Reed Prinsep and Billy Harmon should bring an edge from the back row, while once-capped All Black Ioane and creative Hurricanes playmaker Ruben Love are pushing for the number 10 shirt.

The Chiefs’ highly consistent Alex Nankivell is among the midfield options along with Hurricanes threat Bailyn Sullivan, whose brother, Blues fullback Zarn, is part of a back three unit that also includes the prolific Josh Moorby, who was a breakout star for the Canes this year.

Ireland boss Farrell has likened the two Māori All Blacks games to full Test matches and said they are likely to provide “a stern test of our squad strength and depth.”

Māori All Blacks:

Loosehead props: Tamaiti Williams (Crusaders), Ollie Norris (Chiefs)

Tighthead props: Marcel Renata (Blues), Jermaine Ainsley (Highlanders), Tyrel Lomax (Hurricanes)

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Hookers: Leni Apisai (Auckland), Kurt Eklund (Blues), Tyrone Thompson (Chiefs)

Locks: Isaia Walker-Leawere (Hurricanes), Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Highlanders), Josh Dickson (Highlanders), Max Hicks (Highlanders)

Back rowsReed Prinsep (Hurricanes), Caleb Delany (Hurricanes), Billy Harmon (Highlanders), Te Kamaka Howden (Hurricanes), Cameron Suafoa (Blues), Cullen Grace (Crusaders)

Scrum-halves: TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), Brad Weber (Chiefs), Sam Nock (Blues)

Out-halves: Josh Ioane (Chiefs), Ruben Love (Hurricanes)

Centres: Alex Nankivell (Chiefs), Rameka Poihipi (Chiefs), Billy Proctor (Hurriances), Bailyn Sullivan (Hurricanes)

Back three: Connor Garden-Bachop (Highlanders) Josh Moorby (Hurricanes), Zarn Sullivan (Blues), Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs).

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Murray Kinsella


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