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Ripia has chance to run Maori All Blacks

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James Mortimer     30 Oct 2012     Getty Images

Ripia spent a year at the Highlanders before three strong campaigns with the Hurricanes, where two of his three seasons were spent playing Super Rugby Final's Series Rugby.

The Murupara born prodigy left the Western Force in less than ideal circumstances, but has slowly been making his comeback after spending some time out of the spotlight with family and support.

Playing for the Bay of Plenty development team has kept Ripia match fit, and his experience - with two Maori All Black caps already - and 37 Super Rugby caps along with stints with Waikato and Taranaki, playing part in the first stages of what has been a strong period from the province.

Wellington's Tim Bateman, Waikato's Trent Renata or at a pinch perhaps the mercurial Andre Taylor, are other options available to run the cutter.

Maori All Blacks coach Jamie Joseph said the 27-year-olds resume gave him some clout.

"Willie Ripia is a class player," he said.

"He's played for the New Zealand Maori before and Super Rugby for many years."

"He's had some troubles as well and part of this team is to promote our people and promote our players. I guess in Willie's situation it's to give him a second chance. He's got some close friends in the team because he's been part of the team. He's got some work to do, there's no doubt about that but again, in conversations I've had with him he's ready to go."

The selection table will be interesting as the Leicester Tigers have promised a full strength team on November 13, and how they combat a team that plays a classic pragmatic game will be a challenge for any back trying to organise play on the three match series.

"Up front I've got some tough characters," Joseph said.

"I'm going to need that in England playing against those big packs and in different conditions and styles of football. But we've also got some young backs who I think are quite exciting."

Maori All Blacks squad: Hika Elliot, Quentin MacDonald, Ben May, Bronson Murray, Ben Afeaki, Jacob Ellison, Jarrad Hoeata, Jason Eaton, Romana Graham, Ross Filipo, Nick Crosswell, Tanerau Latimer (c), Karl Lowe, Shane Christie, Jamison Gibson-Park, Frae Wilson, Willie Ripia, Tim Bateman, Jackson Willison, Charles Ngatai, Declan O'Donnell, Andre Taylor, Kurt Baker, Trent Renata, Kade Poki.