PREVIEW: Māori All Blacks v Ireland (Wellington)

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There were signs of promise from Ireland in its 32-17 defeat to the Māori on June 29 in Hamilton. Andy Farrell is building depth within his squad ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France and, while his charges were clearly beaten, four tries to two, they stuck to their guns and played with heart in the second half, in particular.

As they do not have two full squads here, Ireland has included five who were on the subs bench for the second Test against the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday plus Mack Hansen, who was on the right wing that night. It remains to be seen how much game time we see from that sextet, given most will be required for Test duty on Saturday, but there is plenty of experience and quality in those higher numbers.

Keith Earls is another seasoned campaigner. He will move to centre and assumes the captaincy, leading a youthful backline.

No 8 Gavin Coombes impressed in the first clash, the Munsterman scoring one try and setting one up for Bundee Aki. Opensider Nick Timoney was also very industrious. The team showed its grit in keeping the Māori scoreless in the second stanza.

In general, Ireland will need to be less passive on defence and watch its discipline, incurring plenty of whistle from referee Wayne Barnes in Hamilton.

The Māori, for their part, will look to bring the first half in Hamilton for the full 80 minutes in Wellington.

Coach Clayton McMillan has made six changes to his starting XV, elevating co-captain TJ Perenara to No 9 on his home ground, while fullback Josh Moorby, who made such a favourable impression for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby Pacific, is named for his debut.

In line for debuts off the pine are Highlanders lock Max Hicks and home town boy Caleb Delany.

While the best Māori player in Hamilton, fullback Zarn Sullivan, is not involved this time, his brother Bailyn is, at centre, in partnership with the under-rated Alex Nankivell. Right wing Shaun Stevenson was a handful for the Irish in game one.

A feature of the Māori squad is the home town flavour, with no less than nine Hurricanes named in the match-day 23, plus another three who have strong Wellington roots.

The last time the Māori All Blacks ran out onto SKY Stadium was in 2021 before a heavily restricted crowd. They beat Manu Samoa 35-10 with a Stevenson double the highlight.

This is the Māori All Blacks’ 127th international match since their establishment in 1910.

The clash will kick off at 7.05pm on Tuesday from Wellington’s SKY Stadium. It will be televised live on SKY Sport.


Māori All Blacks: 1. Ollie Norris 2. Kurt Eklund 3. Tyrel Lomax 4. Manaaki Selby-Rickit 5. Isaia Walker-Leawere 6. Reed Prinsep 7. Billy Harmon 8. Cullen Grace 9. TJ Perenara (co-c) 10. Josh Ioane 11. Connor Garden-Bachop 12. Alex Nankivell 13. Bailyn Sullivan 14. Shaun Stevenson 15. Josh Moorby

Reserves: 16. Leni Apisai 17. Tamaiti Williams 18. Marcel Renata 19. Max Hicks 20. Caleb Delany 21. Brad Weber (co-c) 22. Ruben Love 23. Billy Proctor


Ireland: 1. Jeremy Loughman 2. Niall Scannell 3. Tom O’Toole 4. Joe McCarthy 5. Kieran Treadwell 6. Cian Prendergast 7. Nick Timoney 8. Gavin Coombes 9. Craig Casey 10. Ciaran Frawley 11. Jimmy O’Brien 12. Stuart McCloskey 13. Keith Earls (c) 14. Jordan Larmour 15. Michael Lowry

Reserves: 16. Rob Herring 17. Ed Byrne 18. Finlay Bealham 19. Ryan Baird 20. Jack Conan 21. Conor Murray 22. Joey Carbery 23. Mack Hansen


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Campbell Burnes

Campbell Burnes has written on rugby since 2000 for a wide variety of publications, both in print and online, whilst also contributing to television and radio shows. His major gigs have seen him at Rugby News magazine (2005-12), in which he covered 50 Test matches, and the New Zealand Herald (2014-17). Burnes is one of the few in rugby media to have played international rugby, having appeared for Manu Samoa in 1995 and 2000 (seven games) as a No 10. He is now the editor of Rugby News magazine and co-editor of the Rugby Almanack.


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