Bay of Plenty’s Kane Hames is set to play against Canada in the opening match of the North American Tour on Sunday.
Coach Colin Cooper named Hames in a strong Maori All Blacks team which features five players in the starting XV making their debut with another six new caps in the reserves.
Bay of Plenty’s Kane Hames has been named in the Maori All Blacks side to play Canada.
Copper is pleased with the balance in the side which is based on ITM Cup and Investec Super Rugby form and how quickly players had coped with the short assembly and long flight to Toronto.
“It was a long haul over here and everyone is getting over the travel factor and we are putting things together. Those boys are the in-form players at the moment so they get the first opportunity.
“There’s been plenty of competition for places and that’s what makes this group exciting, anyone can replace anyone.”
The five players making their debut in the starting XV are Kane Hames, Joe Wheeler, Liam Squire, Luke Braid and Zac Guildford.
Bay of Plenty prop Hames has had a stellar season, earning selection for the Maori All Blacks in his first year in the ITM Cup as well as an Investec Super Rugby contract with the Highlanders.
“He has had a fantastic year and he got an opportunity through injuries in the Bay and with the coaching of Kevin Schuler he has come through and really pushed his name forward,” says Cooper.
“He is hard working, of great character and has gelled with the group very quickly.” The Maori All Blacks defeated Canada 32-19 on last year’s tour to the UK.
Canada come to the match ranked 14th in the world and are coached by former Taranaki coach Kieran Crowley.
Sunday’s game is a sell-out with 22,000 fans expected to pack out BMO Field making it the largest ever rugby crowd in Canada.
Conditions for the early afternoon game are forecast to be a chilly six degrees.
“It’s going to be tough in their backyard. There’s an Argentinean referee so interpretations may be different to what we are used to at home so it will be a difficult Test.
“Conditions will be cold and possibly wet so they may not suit our Maori brand of rugby, but we will certainly make sure we play a winning game plan.”
• Kane Hames, Ngai Tuhoe/Nagti Porou, Bay of Plenty
• Hikawera Elliot, Ngati Awa, Counties Manukau
• Ben Afeafi, Ngati Awa, North Harbour
• Jarred Hoeata, Ngati Kahunganu/Ngai Tuhoe, Taranaki
• Joe Wheeler, Ngai Tahu, Tasman
• Liam Squire, Ngai Tahu, Tasman
• Luke Braid, Ngati Tumutumu, Auckland
• Elliot Dixon, Ngapuhi, Southland
• Piri Weepu, Te Whakatohea/Ngai Tahu, Auckland
• Tim Bateman, Ngai Tahu, Wellington
• Zac Guilford, Ngati Kahugunu/Ngai Tahu, Hawke’s Bay
• Jackson Willison, Ngati Mahuta, Waikato
• Charlie Ngatai, Ngati Porou/Te Whanau-a-Apanui, Wellington
• Andre Taylor, Tuwharetoa/Ngati Kahungunu, Taranaki
• Robbie Robertson, Ngati Tuwharetoa/Ngati Tahinga, Southland
• Chris Eves, Tainui, Manawatu
• Nick Barrett, Ngati Kahungunu, Southland
• Ash Dixon, Ngati Tahinga, Hawke’s Bay
• Blade Thomson, Ngapuhi, Taranaki
• Shane Christie, Te Atihaunui A Paparangi, Tasman
• Jamison Gibson-Park, Ngati Porou/Ngai Tai, Taranaki
• Ihaia West, Ngati Kahungunu/Ngati Porou, Taranaki
• Matt Proctor, Ngai te Rangi/Ngapuhi, Wellington