Five players will make their debut for the New Zealand Maori team on Thursday (NZ time) when the team kicks off its Churchill Cup campaign against the United States in San Francisco.
North Harbour prop Mike Noble, Otago halfback Chris Smylie, Hawke’s Bay first five Matt Berquist, Waikato midfielder Richard Kahui and North Harbour winger Zar Lawrence have been named in the starting line-up for the competition opener.
Taranaki lock Paul Tito takes over the captaincy from Jono Gibbes, who has been named in the reserves.
New Zealand Maori coach Donny Stevenson said he hoped the team would continue its form against the United States following last Friday’s 20-16 win against the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney.
“We will look to lift our game a notch after last week’s win. Our understanding is that rugby is growing here and we are delighted that we can aid the development of the game in this part of the world,” Stevenson said.
New Zealand Maori team: 1. Greg Feek, 2. Luke Mahoney, 3. Mike Noble,
4. Kristian Ormsby, 5. Paul Tito (captain), 6. Thomas Waldrom, 7. Liam Messam,
8. Jake Paringatai, 9. Chris Smylie, 10. Matt Berquist, 11. Cory Jane, 12. Pehi Te Whare, 13. Richard Kahui, 14. Zar Lawrence, 15. Shannon Paku
Reserves: 16. Scott Linklater, 17. Deacon Manu, 18. Ross Filipo, 19. Jono Gibbes, 20. Corey Tamou, 21. Callum Bruce, 22. Anthony Tahana
The game kicks off at 7.00pm Wednesday US time (2.00pm Thursday NZ time) and TV3 will have delayed coverage on Thursday at 11.15pm (NZ time).