Five Highlanders in Maori ABs to play Ireland

Connor Garden-Bachop is expected to play on the wing. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Connor Garden-Bachop is expected to play on the wing. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Three Highlanders will start and two more will be eager for action off the bench when the Maori All Blacks play Ireland in Hamilton tomorrow night.

Ten players will make their debuts for the Maori when they tackle the touring Irish at Waikato Stadium.

Among them are Highlanders regulars Connor Garden-Bachop, used mostly as a fullback at Super Rugby level but given the Maori nod on the wing, and prop Jermaine Ainsley, who is on the bench.

The other Highlanders starters are in the pack.

Josh Dickson joins Isaia Walker-Leawere (Hurricanes) at lock, and Billy Harmon starts in a loose trio that includes two players on debut, unheralded Blues flanker Cameron Suafoa and Timaru Boys’ High School-educated No 8 Cullen Grace.

Highlanders lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit, who has not played since suffering a knee injury in the game against Moana Pasifika in April, is in the reserves.

Otago and Chiefs first five Josh Ioane and captain Brad Weber are the key men in a fairly green Maori backline.

There will be much interest in how former Highlanders prop Tyrel Lomax and rising Chiefs star Ollie Norris go against the powerful Ireland set piece.

It is also a big night for the Sullivan family with two brothers on debut.

Exciting Blues fullback Zarn Sullivan starts and Hurricanes utility Bailyn Sullivan is on the bench.

The familiar face in the reserves is Hurricanes veteran TJ Perenara.

Perenara, who has played 78 tests for the All Blacks at halfback, finally gets to make his Maori debut.

"We are anticipating a huge challenge from Ireland on Wednesday," Maori All Blacks coach Clayton McMillan said.

"They are a top-tier, physical team, with a strong defence."

It is 12 years since the Maori All Blacks last played Ireland.

The game kicks off at 7.05pm tomorrow.

Maori All Blacks to play Ireland

Team: Zarn Sullivan, Shaun Stevenson, Billy Proctor, Rameka Poihipi, Connor Garden-Bachop, Josh Ioane, Brad Weber (captain), Cullen Grace, Billy Harmon, Cameron Suafoa, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Josh Dickson, Tyrel Lomax, Kurt Eklund, Ollie Norris. 

Reserves: Tyrone Thompson, Tamaiti Williams, Jermaine Ainsley, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, TK Howden, TJ Perenara, Ruben Love, Bailyn Sullivan.



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