New Zealand Maori will field a strong starting line-up for Friday’s uncapped international match against Ireland at Rotorua International Stadium (kick-off 7.35pm local time/8.35am Irish time).
The New Zealand Maori team, selected by head coach Jamie Joseph and assistant coach Daryl Gibson, includes five players who have been capped at Test level by the All Blacks.
They are centre Luke McAlister, who played twice against Ireland in 2006, winger Hosea Gear, hooker Corey Flynn and back row duo Liam Messam and Tanerau Latimer.
Gear, Flynn and New Zealand Maori captain Messam played for New Zealand against Munster in that memorable clash at Thomond Park in November 2008.
The Maori coaches have made five changes to the side that defeated the New Zealand Barbarians 37-31 in Whangarei in their centenary season opener last Saturday.
Hawke’s Bay prop Ben Afeaki, Otago lock Hayden Triggs, Waikato utility back Dwayne Sweeney, Manawatu half-back Aaron Smith and Bay of Plenty number 8 Colin Bourke have all been bumped up from the replacements bench and will start against Declan Kidney’s men.
Meanwhile, three potential New Zealand Maori debutants – Karl Lowe (Hawke’s Bay), Willie Ripia (Taranaki) and Ruki Tipuna (Wellington) – have been held in reserve.
Head coach Jamie Joseph said: “The match against the New Zealand Barbarians was definitely a good test for us.
“We came out of that game with areas we know we need to work on and that has been our focus this week.
“There is a great buzz around Rotorua at the moment and the team knows the whole town is behind them.
“The fact that we are about to play in the same place as the first ever game played by the New Zealand Maori rugby team 100 years ago, is very special.”
The New Zealand Maori Centenary Series celebrates 100 years of the New Zealand Maori rugby team. To honour the anniversary, the 2010 team is playing a three-match series – with the first of two internationals matches getting under way against Ireland on Friday.
The second international will be played next Wednesday (June 23) against England in Napier.
NEW ZEALAND MAORI TEAM & REPLACEMENTS (v Ireland XV, Centenary Series Match, Rotorua International Stadium, Friday, June 18, kick-off 7.35pm local time/8.35am Irish time):
15 – Robbie Robinson (Southland, Ngati Tuwharetoa)
14 – Sean Maitland (Canterbury, Ngapuhi)
13 – Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato, Ngati Mahanga)
12 – Luke McAlister (North Harbour, Te Atiawa)
11 – Hosea Gear (Wellington, Ngati Porou/Ngariki Kaiputahi)
10 – Stephen Brett (Canterbury, Ngapuhi/Te Arawa)
9 – Aaron Smith (Manawatu, Ngati Kahungunu)
1 – Bronson Murray (Northland, Ngapuhi)
2 – Corey Flynn (Canterbury, Kai Tahu)
3 – Ben Afeaki (North Harbour, Ngati Awa)
4 – Hayden Triggs (Otago, Ngati Kahungunu)
5 – Jarrad Hoeata (Taranaki, Ngati Kahungunu/Ngai Tuhoe)
6 – Liam Messam (Waikato, Ngai Tuhoe) (capt)
7 – Tanerau Latimer (Bay of Plenty, Tapuika/Ngati Makino/Te Arawa)
8 – Colin Bourke (Bay of Plenty, Ngati Wairere)
16 – Dane Coles (Wellington, Ngati Porou)
17 – Clint Newlands (Hawke’s Bay, Ngati Kahungunu)
18 – Romana Graham (Waikato, Ngati Awa)
19 – Karl Lowe (Hawke’s Bay, Ngati Pikiao/Te Arawa) *
20 – Ruki Tipuna (Wellington, Ngai Te Rangi) *
21 – Willie Ripia (Taranaki, Ngai Tuhoe) *
22 – Jackson Willison (Waikato, Ngati Mahuta)
* Denotes New Zealand Maori debutant