Blues brothers Akira and Rieko Ioane named in Maori XV
Ash Dixon captains a strong side with just two uncapped Maori All Blacks on bench
The Lions will be reacquainted with Rieko Ioane when they face the New Zealand Maori on Saturday. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty
The All Blacks’ Blues brothers, so to speak, Akira Ioane and Rieko Ioane, along with dynamic Chiefs’ scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow have all been included in the Maori starting line-up to face the Lions.
The twice capped Chiefs full-back Damian McKenzie, who has lit up Super Rugby this season with his counter-attacking, blinding elusiveness and ball skills, has been picked at out-half.
“We’ve named a strong group who all have good clarity on how we want to play this match against the Lions,” said their coach Colin Cooper. “We feel Damian will suit the game plan that we want to play, from the number 10 position.”
Cooper said he was pleased with the way the players had connected throughout the week.
“We experienced a powerful powhiri on Monday which really resonated with the boys and it’s been great to be here in Rotorua and feel all the support. It’s really lifted the team and helped bring them together as a unit.
“We recognise the challenge that is ahead of us on Saturday, but we’re really excited as a group by the opportunity we have to represent New Zealand, Maoridom and the fans that will descend on Rotorua this weekend.”
Hawke’s Bay’s Ash Dixon will captain the side which features just two uncapped Maori All Blacks on the bench, Bryn Hall and Rob Thompson.
Maori All Blacks team to face the British and Irish Lions: J Lowe, N Milner-Skudder, M Proctor, C Ngatai, R Ioane, D McKenzie, T Kerr-Barlow, K Hames, A Dixon (capt), B May, J Wheeler, T Franklin, A Ioane, E Dixon, L Messam. Replacements: H Elliot, C Eves, M Renata, L Price, K Pryor, B Hall, I West, R Thompson.