NZ Maori call on experience
Former All Blacks Corey Flynn, Hosea Gear, Tanerau Latimer, Luke McAlister, Liam Messam and Isaac Ross have all been named in a strong New Zealand Maori squad for the Centenary series next month.
The matches against the New Zealand Barbarians, Ireland and England are part of the celebrations to mark 100 years of the New Zealand Maori rugby team.
Messam will lead the squad which includes a dozen players who have yet to make their NZ Maori debuts, although all bar two - Manawatu scrum-half Aaron Smith and Wellington lock Daniel Ramsay - have got Super rugby experience.
"It is a special honour and rare privilege to play for the Maori team and will be especially meaningful in this year of celebration and I would like to congratulate those players picked in the squad for the first time," said New Zealand Maori coach Jamie Joseph, himself a former NZ Maori player.
"We are lucky to have a lot of experience in the team and they will ensure that those new players are quickly brought up to speed.
"We have a fantastic programme including two major matches against Ireland and England.
"They will be challenging games and will give players the chance to really make their mark and play the style of rugby the New Zealand Maori side is famous for," he added.