Rugby: Four Kiwis to face Maori All Blacks

By Campbell Burnes

Mark Reddish in action for the Hurricanes. Hawke's Bay Today
Mark Reddish in action for the Hurricanes. Hawke's Bay Today

Four New Zealanders are in the Harlequins squad that will face the Maori All Blacks in tomorrow's tour closer in London.

Former Highlanders and Wellington lock Mark Reddish, former Canterbury and Connacht No 8 George Naoupu, globetrotting former Manu Samoa No 6 Dan Leo (a guest player) and New Zealand-born former Manu Samoa wing Alofa Alofa will turn out for Harlequins in the centrepiece of the club's 150th anniversary celebrations.

Regular Kiwi front-liners Nick Evans, Winston Stanley and Mat Luamanu are not required.
Harlequins lie mid-table in the Aviva Premiership and are coming off two victories in the Anglo-Welsh Cup but, like Munster, who beat the Maori last weekend, look far from full strength. They will be captained by seasoned former Wales and Lions tighthead prop Adam Jones.

On that basis, the Maori, chastened by that 27-14 defeat to Munster, which exposed their breakdown work, tactics and application in the wet, should be favourites.

Coach Colin Cooper has made several tweaks, going for extra experience. That includes the shifting of wing James Lowe to fullback, where his howitzer left boot can be used to better effect. Jason Emery was bracketed with Tim Bateman for the No 12 jersey, while Taranaki's Sean Wainui comes onto the left wing. The Hawke's Bay halves combination of Brad Weber and Ihaia West look more likely to unlock the Maori attack that struggled in the face of Munster defensive pressure.

In the loose forwards, however, there is just the one fetcher, Shane Christie, who was swamped against the Munster men. But parity in the collisions will allow the full Akira Ioane attacking impetus to be seen. Kane Hames will look to assert himself against the old campaigner Jones in the scrums.

The folly of the breakdown laws trialled in the Mitre 10 Cup was seen against Munster. Most of the Maori played two months of rugby with laws that did not work and were not going to be used on this tour. They were beaten to the punch after an easy win against a USA side yet to respond to John Mitchell's coaching - the Eagles have lost to Brazil and Romania. Cooper acknowledges this fact, so the sting of defeat, and knowing that this is the last Maori outing until June's big international against the touring Lions, means they should leave nothing out on the field.

"It's about making sure you tackle well, put extra numbers in, so we've had to change from our offloading game to play the UK style, which is physical, latching, jackling on defence. We've had to reprogramme the game to an extent," Cooper says.

Kickoff tomorrow morning (NZT) is at 8.45am from Twickenham Stoop, adjacent to the main Twickenham stadium. The Black Ferns will open their tour against England at the same venue early on Sunday morning (NZT).

Maori All Blacks to face Harlequins: James Lowe, Ambrose Curtis, Matt Proctor, Tim Bateman/Jason Emery, Sean Wainui, Ihaia West, Brad Weber, Akira Ioane, Shane Christie, Whetu Douglas, Tom Franklin, Leighton Price, Ben May, Ash Dixon (c), Kane Hames; Reserves: Joe Royal, Chris Eves, Marcel Renata, Jacob Skeen, Reed Prinsep, Billy Guyton, Otere Black, Emery/Marty McKenzie

- NZ Herald

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