Weber and Perenara ready to lead the Māori All Blacks

Brad TJ

One of the benefits of having missed out on All Blacks selection was that they still had the chance to have a crack at Ireland, he said.

 

"The Māori All Blacks are a team I have enjoyed playing for, and every time I get in here I learn a lot. The whole week is about fun, connection and enjoyment. This is the biggest team I've had to play against for the Māori, so I'm excited, especially playing at [home ground] Hamilton too," he said.

 

Playing for the Māori All Blacks had also resulted in him and his wider family digging deeper into their ancestry, and he had learnt more about it.

 

Weber said he would continue to work at getting better in how he played his game, and Perenara was the same.

 

"We play a finite game. At the end of 80 minutes, there's a winner and a loser, there are teams that get selected. But, me and TJ are playing this game infinitely.

 

"We're trying to get better every day, regardless what happens in terms of selection or results. That's our mindset at the moment," he said.

 

Weber said when he and Perenara were asked to lead the side it was a big moment for both of them.

They had played with and against each other since their mid-teens, so they had 15 years of history and were good mates.

 

Coach Clayton McMillan said utilising the leadership and experience of two recent All Blacks halfbacks was behind his choice of making them co-captains for the side, with Weber to start the first game in Hamilton.

 

The choice also provided a bridge should either get called up to the All Blacks if injuries occurred.

 

McMillan said Alex Nankivell was the only player not considered for selection after illness forced him to miss a couple of days of training.

 

McMillan said choosing their loose forwards and blindside flanker especially where Cameron Suafoa was named, was the hardest part of their discussions. Selecting the back three had also been difficult.

 

They settled on their final choices of Billy Harmon, Suafoa and Cullen Grace in the loose and Zarn Sullivan, Shaun Stevenson and Connor Garden-Bachop at the back because they were expecting the game to be played in wet conditions.

 

Having Bailyn [from the bench] and [fullback] Zarn Sullivan debuting for the side together was unusual.

 

"It's a proud moment for those guys and whānau, iwi and hapū. It's not often you get two brothers to debut for any team let along the Māori All Blacks. They've both taken their game to another level this year and deserve their selection," he said.

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