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Brad Weber and TJ Perenara named as Maori All Blacks co-captains against Ireland

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Former All Blacks halfbacks Brad Weber and TJ Perenara have been named as Maori All Blacks co-captains for Wednesday’s clash against Ireland in Hamilton.

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Both players, who missed out on All Blacks selection earlier this month, were unveiled as co-captains on Monday as Maori All Blacks boss Clayton McMillan named his side to face the Irish in what will be the first match of their five-game New Zealand tour.

Weber has been handed starting honours ahead of Perenara, who is one of ten players primed to make their Maori All Blacks debuts at FMG Stadium Waikato.

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One of those players is another ex-All Black in the form of one-test utility forward Cullen Grace, who has been named to start at No 8 following his late inclusion in the Maori All Blacks squad after a string of standout showings for the Crusaders.

Grace is joined by Blues blindside flanker Cameron Suafoa as one of two loose forward debutants, while Highlanders outside back Connor Garden-Bachop and Blues fullback Zarn Sullivan have also been named to make their starting Maori All Blacks debuts.

Despite having started most of the Super Rugby Pacific season at fullback, Garden-Bachop has been selected on the left wing, with Sullivan picked to start at No 15.

Sullivan is accompanied by his older brother and Hurricanes midfielder Bailyn Sullivan in making his Maori All Blacks debut.

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Bailyn Sullivan joins Perenara as two of six uncapped Maori All Blacks named on the bench, alongside Chiefs hooker Tyrone Thompson, Highlanders prop Jermaine Ainsley, Hurricanes loose forward TK Howden and Hurricanes utility back Ruben Love.

The selection of Ainsley brings with it plenty of intrigue given the 26-year-old is a former Wallabies tighthead prop, having played three tests for Australia in 2018.

Other notable inclusions throughout the Maori All Blacks side includes the selection of one-test All Blacks playmaker Josh Ioane at first-five, while discarded All Blacks prop Tyrel Lomax has been named to start at tighthead prop.

McMillan said in a statement released on Monday that the inclusions of Weber and Perenara is vital for the Maori All Blacks due to their leadership qualities.

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“Having Weber and Perenara as co-captains ensures there is always strong leadership on the field, especially against the unrelenting Ireland side,” McMillan said.

“For our debut players, this will be a proud moment to not only represent this team, but their whanau and their iwi.”

Kick-off for Wednesday’s clash between the Maori All Blacks and Ireland is scheduled for 7.05pm.

Maori All Blacks team to play Ireland in Hamilton

1. Ollie Norris
2. Kurt Eklund
3. Tyrel Lomax
4. Josh Dickson
5. Isaia Walker-Leawere
6. Cameron Suafoa*
7. Billy Harmon
8. Cullen Grace*
9. Brad Weber (co-c)
10. Josh Ioane
11. Connor Garden-Bachop*
12. Rameka Poihipi
13. Billy Proctor
14. Shaun Stevenson
15. Zarn Sullivan*

Reserves

16. Tyrone Thompson*
17. Tamaiti Williams
18. Jermaine Ainsley*
19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit
20. TK Howden*
21. TJ Perenara (co-c)*
22. Ruben Love*
23. Bailyn Sullivan*

* – denotes new cap

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