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Two players are set to make their debuts for the Maori All Blacks after being named in the squad for next month’s two-match series against Manu Samoa.
Highlanders and Otago lock Josh Dickson and Chiefs prop Ollie Norris have been named in the team for the first time.
Dickson is one of three Otago players in the squad along with prop Josh Hohneck and fullback/first five-eighth Josh Ioane.
Highlanders hooker Ash Dixon will captain the side again and will be joined by franchise team-mates Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Pari Pari Parkinson and Billy Harmon, as well Dickson and Ioane.
The sides, which are playing for the first time since 2008, will play in Wellington on June 26 and and follow that by being part of a double-header alongside the All Blacks and Tonga at Mt Smart in Auckland on July 3.
Dixon, who made his debut for the side in 2013, has led its past five campaigns.
Norris has had a meteoric rise in the front row, only switching from the loose forwards in his last year at St Peter’s Cambridge, and has since made 10 appearances for Waikato and 16 for the Chiefs.
Dickson’s form, work-rate and aerial skills have also been recognised.
‘‘Josh has been consistent performer throughout both Super Rugby for the Highlanders and NPC for Otago,’’ Maori All Blacks coach Clayton McMillan.
‘‘He is highly regarded for his ability in the lineout and has an established relationship with Ash, Pari Pari and Manaaki. Having combinations like this will be important when preparing for a short campaign.’’
The Maori All Blacks played one match in 2020, a 28-21 victory over Moana Pasifika in Hamilton.
‘‘We introduced a number of new players into our environment last year so to have them back for this series is pleasing,’’ McMillan said.