New Zealand Maori coach Colin Cooper has named his side to take on Fiji at ANZ Stadium in Suva this Saturday with two sets of brothers named in the starting XV.
Auckland’s Akira and Rieko Ioane line up at blindside flanker and right wing respectively while the Chiefs McKenzie brothers, Marty and Damien, have been named at fly-half and fullback.
Family tradition has been strong in New Zealand rugby for years now with the Whitelock, Savea and Franks brothers all paving the way for the next generation of powerhouse kiwi rugby families.
Akira was named after a breakout season with the Auckland Blues while Rieko was rewarded with a call up after a successful run in Gordon Tietjens sevens side.
The older Akira was widely tipped to be involved in the New Zealand national setup in someway or another, but younger brother Rieko was pleasantly surprised when he got the call from Colin Cooper to join Akira and the Maori’s for the Fiji test.
“I wasn’t even too sure if they had a tour this year,” Rieko told the New Zealand Herald.
“I never expected to be named in this team because I hadn’t played much 15s since the 7s finished. I thought my brother might get in, but I was really happy when I got the call.”
The younger Rieko continues his rise through the ranks of New Zealand rugby after captaining the New Zealand schoolboys side last year to two wins before linking up first with the Sevens in Wellington before retaining his spot in Tietjens side for the rest of the tour.
Meanwhile Damian McKenzie joins brother Marty in the backline as the highly touted Chiefs brothers get an opportunity to showcase their prodigious talent on the international stage.
Coach Colin Cooper said the short turnaround for the squad had been difficult to deal with, but that he was pleased with how quickly the players bonded together.
“This squad has developed a great spirit very quickly and even though we had a long journey to Suva, we’re in good shape. We’re really looking forward to training today and adapting to the hotter conditions here,” Cooper told Radio NZ.
“We have a good mix in the team to take on Fiji. There are players who have come out of the Super Rugby finals series in great nick and those who have had a bit more of a layoff so I think that will work well for us. It’s great that we are also able to field some of the exciting, young players we’ve brought into this team and I know Saturday will be a very proud day for them.”
“We’re certainly fit and raring to go against what we see is a very strong Fijian team so we’ll need to be at our best to honour our record against international teams.”
Māori All Blacks:
1 Joe Moody * (Canterbury)
2 Ash Dixon (Hawke’s Bay)
3 Ben May (Wellington)
4 Jacob Skeen * (Waikato)
5 Hayden Triggs (North Harbour)
6 Akira Ioane * (Auckland)
7 Mitchell Crosswell (Taranaki)
8 Blade Thomson (Taranaki)
9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow * (Waikato)
10 Marty McKenzie (Taranaki)
11 Kurt Baker (Taranaki)
12 Charlie Ngatai (Taranaki)
13 Matt Proctor (Wellington)
14 Rieko Ioane * (Auckland)
15 Damian McKenzie * (Waikato)
16 Quentin MacDonald (Tasman)
17 Brendon Edmonds (Hawke’s)
18 Josh Hohneck * (Waikato)
19 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis* (Manawatu)
20 Elliot Dixon (Southland)
21 Jamison Gibson-Park (Taranaki)
22 Otere Black * (Manawatu)
23 Jason Emery (Manawatu) N
– Saturday 11 July v Fiji, ANZ National Stadium, Suva. Kickoff 3pm
– Saturday 18 July v New Zealand Barbarians, Eden Park, Auckland. Kickoff 7.35pm