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TJ Perenara and Brad Weber headline Maori All Blacks squad to face Ireland

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

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Omitted All Blacks halfbacks TJ Perenara and Brad Weber headline the 28-man Maori All Blacks squad to face Ireland in a two-test series over the coming weeks.

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Perenara and Weber were two of the major absentees from the All Blacks squad announced on Monday, with head coach Ian Foster instead opting for Aaron Smith, Finlay Christie and the uncapped Folau Fakatava as his halfbacks.

Instead, Perenara and Weber will ply their trade for the Maori All Blacks, who will host Ireland in two mid-week tests during their five-match tour of New Zealand, where they will also play three tests against the All Blacks.

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Perenara, the 30-year-old veteran of 78 tests, is one of 11 players included in the Maori All Blacks squad who have never played for the team before.

The other 10 who are in line for their Maori All Blacks debuts are ex-Wallabies prop Jermaine Ainsley, Chiefs hooker Tyrone Thompson, Hurricanes lock Caleb Delany, Hurricanes flanker TK Howden and Blues utility forward Cameron Suafoa.

In the backline, Hurricanes playmaker Ruben Love is joined by franchise teammate Bailyn Sullivan and outside back trio Connor Garden-Bachop, Josh Moorby and Zarn Sullivan as the squad’s newbies.

Hurricanes prop Tyrel Lomax has also been named after missing out on the All Blacks squad to fellow tightheads Ofa Tuungafasi, Nepo Laulala and Angus Ta’avao.

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Maori All Blacks head coach Clayton McMillan, joined by assistants Roger Randle and Chris Gibbes, said in a statement released on Wednesday that he is excited about the squad he has brought together.

The Chiefs boss added that he is hopeful of scoring some success against an Irish squad, which was named on Tuesday, that he expects to challenge his team strongly.

“We are expecting a fierce challenge from Ireland, to be playing a tier one nation at home in Aotearoa has been long awaited,” McMillan said.

“The squad named is a mix of experienced players who know how to perform at this level, and players that bring fresh perspective and energy to the game.

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“We are lucky to have three experienced All Blacks in the squad in TJ Perenara, Brad Weber and Tyrel Lomax, I’m looking forward to the passion and knowledge they will bring.

“This is also a great opportunity for our 11 new caps, there is immense pride in pulling on the Maori All Blacks jersey and with that representing their heritage, their whanau, and their country.

“These two fixtures against Ireland will allow players to showcase what they have and put their best foot forward on an international stage.

“The presence of two former Maori All Blacks in the Ireland side, Jamison Gibson-Park and James Lowe adds to the special nature of this match.”

The Maori All Blacks will open their test series against Ireland at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton on June 29 before following up at Sky Stadium in Wellington on July 12.

Maori All Blacks squad to face Ireland

Props: Tamaiti Williams (Crusaders/Canterbury), Ollie Norris (Chiefs/Waikato), Marcel Renata (Blues/Auckland), Jermaine Ainsley (Highlanders/Otago)*, Tyrel Lomax (Hurricanes/Tasman)

Hookers: Leni Apisai (Auckland), Kurt Eklund (Blues/Bay of Plenty), Tyrone Thomson (Chiefs/Hawke’s Bay)*

Locks: Isaia Walker-Leawere (Hurricanes/Hawke’s Bay), Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Highlanders/Bay of Plenty), Josh Dickson (Highlanders/Otago)

Loose Forwards: Reed Prinsep (Hurricanes/Canterbury), Caleb Delany (Hurricanes/Wellington)*, Billy Harmon (Highlanders/Canterbury), TK Howden (Hurricanes/Manawatu)*, Cameron Suafoa (Blues/Auckland)*

Halfbacks: TJ Perenara (Hurricanes/Wellington)*, Brad Weber (Chiefs/Hawke’s Bay)

First-Fives: Josh Ioane (Chiefs/Otago), Ruben Love (Hurricanes/Wellington)*

Midfielders: Alex Nankivell (Chiefs/Tasman), Rameka Poihipi (Chiefs/Canterbury), Billy Proctor (Hurricanes/Wellington), Bailyn Sullivan (Hurricanes/Waikato)*

Outside Backs: Connor Garden-Bachop (Highlanders/Wellington)*, Josh Moorby (Hurricanes/Northland)*, Zarn Sullivan (Blues/Auckland)*, Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs/North Harbour)

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