For teams from the Southern Hemisphere, the end of their domestic seasons coincides with the start of the offshore fixtures. Usually it is the All Blacks who take the primary attention, but the Maori All Blacks also have End of Year tour matches scheduled.
Both sides will head north; the Maori side are preparing to face Canada, while the All Blacks embark on an extended tour of the British Isles and France.
The tour begins with a celebration of the New Zealand Rugby Union’s 125th anniversary. A match at Twickenham against the Barbarians club opens the tour on November 4.
They then meet France in Paris, before a rare midweek fixture in Lyon. The French XV Selection will build more depth in the squad, before continuing the tour with a test against Scotland, ending at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff against Wales.
All Blacks squad for Vista 2017 All Blacks Northern Tour
The squad is as follows (with age, province and Test caps in brackets. New All Blacks are in bold):
- Asafo Aumua (20, Wellington, uncapped)
- Dane Coles (30, Wellington, 55)
- Nathan Harris (25, Bay of Plenty, 9)
- Codie Taylor (26, Canterbury, 25)
- Wyatt Crockett (34, Canterbury, 68)
- Kane Hames (29, Tasman, 6)
- Nepo Laulala (26, Counties Manukau, 10)
- Tim Perry (29, Tasman, uncapped)
- Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (26, Wellington, 1)
- Ofa Tu’ungafasi (25, Auckland, 11)
- Scott Barrett (23, Taranaki, 14)
- Luke Romano (31, Canterbury, 29)
- Patrick Tuipulotu (24, Auckland, 15)
- Samuel Whitelock (29, Canterbury, 93)
- Sam Cane (25, Bay of Plenty, 50)
- Vaea Fifita (25, Wellington, 3)
- Jerome Kaino (34, Auckland, 74)
- Kieran Read, captain (31, Counties Manukau, 107)
- Ardie Savea (24, Wellington, 21)
- Liam Squire (26, Tasman, 12)
- Matt Todd (29, Canterbury, 10)
- Tawera Kerr-Barlow (27, Waikato, 24)
- TJ Perenara (25, Wellington, 39)
- Aaron Smith (28, Manawatu, 68)
- Beauden Barrett (26, Taranaki, 59)
- Lima Sopoaga (26, Southland, 13)
- Ryan Crotty (29, Canterbury, 32)
- Jack Goodhue (22, Northland, uncapped)
- Ngani Laumape (24, Manawatu, 4)
- Anton Lienert-Brown (22, Waikato, 19)
- Sonny Bill Williams (32, Counties Manukau, 43)
- David Havili (22, Tasman, 3)
- Matt Duffie (27, North Harbour, uncapped)
- Rieko Ioane (20, Auckland, 10)
- Damian McKenzie (22, Waikato, 9)
- Waisake Naholo (26, Taranaki, 15)
- Seta Tamanivalu (25, Taranaki, 3)
The most obvious selections include four new All Blacks. Always an exciting time for new players, with each being deserving in their own rights. Fourth hooker Asafo Aumua has been rewarded for continuing both his domestic, and International Under 20 form. He looks to be as agile as any loose forward, and the time with the All Blacks will only improve his scrummaging.
Tim Perry has already had a brief stint with the squad, and is endorsed by former All Black Greg Somerville. With injuries to experienced props, he will bolster the ranks.
The midfield is strengthened with Northland’s Jack Goodhew. An elegant distributor, who has a length of speed to him. While he has promise, some see him leap-frogging George Moala (who has suffered from the demise of Auckland rugby) and Goodhew has been aided by success in Whangarei.
New Outside Back Has Fine Credentials
The most improved player in NZ rugby over the last two years, has been Matt Duffie. Now the former Storm NRL Rugby League player has convinced the selectors Grant Fox, Ian Foster and head coach Steve Hansen, that he is All Black material.
The Blues and North Harbour back has grown into an exceptional back. A great link in the Harbour back three, who scored the majority of their side’s tries. That evaluation fits with the All Blacks observations. “He’s a very good finisher, he’s got pace, he’s good in the air, he can play wing or fullback.”
“Over the last couple of years, he’s grown and grown and become very consistent.”
Duffie may well become the first three-code New Zealand representative, if he gets to wear the black jersey. It will add to his Kiwis rugby league cap, as well as the NZ Aussie rules team Duffie played for at age 16.
Some Players Selected to Experience All Blacks Environment
“Adding the four new players to our squad will again allow us to expose more young talent to the highest level, where, history tells us, players grow and get better”. Head Coach Steve Hansen has spoken of developing a stronger group, to cover for injuries and succession planning.
“So this tour will complete a season of building depth and experience, which in the long run, will only benefit the team.”
End of Year Tour Matches Opportunities for Wider-Squad Members
As well as the 37-man squad, the All Blacks selectors have also announced that five additional players will play for the Barbarians in the first match of the Vista Northern Tour and then assemble with the All Blacks for the French leg of the tour.
Dillon Hunt, Atunaisa Moli, who has trained with the All Blacks squad this year, halfback Mitchell Drummond and his provincial teammate Richie Mo’unga. The promising first-five was called into the All Blacks squad in Brisbane last week as cover. Two-test All Blacks lock Dominic Bird is also in line for a Baabaas opportunity, after good domestic form for Canterbury and the Chiefs.
Julian Savea has also been named, and may well be a part of that group–if injury determined so. The 54 times capped All Black has fallen out of favour, but Hansen has offered an olive branch recently, considering the fine domestic form of the Wellington player.
“We will be taking a decent sized squad and be looking to be smart about how we prepare both for the French game and the second game in Lyon. As long as we are flexible in our thinking we should be fine,” was the summation by Hansen.
During every one of the end of year tour matches, all current and wider-squad members will match themselves against the opposition; France, Scotland or Wales, as well as compared internally, for long term objectives.
New Coach, New Chapter for Maori All Blacks Squad
The second New Zealand team selected this week is the Maori All Blacks. The revered side continue to represent their country with the team’s special character and mana.
The Maori All Blacks end of year tour matches sees the side play Canada in Vancouver on November 3, and the French Barbarians in Bordeaux on November 10.
Incoming head coach Clayton McMillan said the full squad of 27 included a group of new, but not inexperienced talent. “Many of our players have displayed outstanding form in the Mitre 10 Cup, and this tour gives them a great opportunity to step up another level again,” McMillan said.
“We now also have an opportunity to uncover other emerging Maori talent for the black jersey.”
“We are fortunate to have Ash Dixon return as captain; he is the heart of our pack and his leadership, both on and off the field, steers the team’s special character,” he said.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 23, 2017
McMillan himself has seen much success, steering Bay of Plenty to the Mitre 10 Cup Championship final. He also led New Zealand Provincial Barbarians against the British & Irish Lions earlier this year. Those opportunities now see him appointed in the position coveted by Maori coaches in New Zealand.
End of Year Tour Matches for New Names
Those selected for the first time include Northland’s Ross Wright, Waikato’s Jordan Manihera, Bay of Plenty’s Liam Polwart and Keepa Mewett, Counties Manukau’s Sam Henwood, Tasman’s Tyrell Lomax, Manawatu’s Jackson Hemopo, Wellington’s Jackson Garden-Bachop, Otago’s Jonathan Ruru and Teihorangi Walden.
The 10 new caps will carry the legacy of the Maori team. Each player knows the record held by the team, and playing offshore they will wear the silver. Representing the jersey, their families and culture.
“This short tour is a great opportunity to take the Maori All Blacks to new audiences. It’s only the second time we have played Canada and it will be our first visit to Vancouver.
“Our match against the French Barbarians opens what will be a special weekend of rugby in France, as we play in Bordeaux on the eve of the All Blacks test match against France,” says McMillan.
Clayton McMillan will be assisted by Tana Umaga and Carl Hoeft.
Maori All Blacks squad:
Backs: Ambrose Curtis, Sean Wainui, Charlie Ngatai, Teihorangi Walden, Rob Thompson, Tim Bateman, Ihaia West, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Brad Weber, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Jonathan Ruru.
Forwards: Akira Ioane, Jordan Manihera, Sam Henwood, Dan Pryor, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Jarrad Hoeata, Keepa Mewett, Chris Eves, Ross Wright, Marcel Renata, Tyrel Lomax, Ash Dixon (c), Liam Polwart.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images