A veritable who's who of former top-level players will take to the field in the curtain-raiser to the sold-out pre-season Super 15 rugby match between the Hurricanes and Chiefs at Mangatainoka on Saturday.
The DB invitational team features Taranaki veteran and former Hurricanes player Kevin Barrett, former All Black and New Zealand sevens player Rico Gear, former New Zealand Maori and Super 12 player Rua Tipoki, former Wairarapa-Bush and New Zealand divisional team skipper Joe Harwood and East Coast and New Zealand Maori representative Mutu Ngarimu.
Among those joining them will be Steve Walters, general manager for the Hertz Wellington Sevens tournament and Thomas Ben, commercial manager for the Wellington Phoenix.
Team manager Hamish Clentworth says his team are looking forward to taking to the pitch at the Mangatainoka RFC, next to Tui Brewery and he is predicting a competitive outing against an invitational PGG Wrightsons team which will kick off at 1pm.
The curtain-raiser is part of the pre-match entertainment for the Hurricanes and defending Super Rugby champions Chiefs which gets under way at 3pm.
Tui Brewery commercial manager Nick Rogers, who has championed the grassroots rugby match for four years, is thrilled the game has sold out again.
Like previous pre-season games at Mangatainoka, Saturday's encounter will, as usual, be played on Neil Symonds' farm and see the community rally together to host a predicted 8000 visitors.
There will be enough temporary seating to accommodate all ticket holders, pre and post-game entertainment and an array of guest speakers. Passionate fans are expected to turn out in their regional colours.
The curtain-raiser teams:-
Wrightson Invitation XV: Ben Diamond, Maurice Stewart, Hamish Black, Ryan Dowling, Nick Ward, Dave Lilley, Mathew Towers, William Hurst, Bryce Morgan, Callum McCrostie, Carl Gunson, Harry Stanway, Abe Pomore, Quinton Smith, Kane Adams. Reserves: Ben Martin, Charlie Taituha, Campbell Harding, Ryan Shaw, Sam Miller, Warren Johnson, Elliot Nicholson.
DB invitation XV: Pete Cleaver, Joe Harwood, Nico Fabrello, Zac Haumaha, Kevin Barrett, Grant Caunter, Jarrod Bear, Muru Ngarimu, Pere Rodgers, Campbell Woodmass, Hamist Clentworth, Rua Tipoki, Rico Gear, Liam Sullivan, Peter Grills. Reserves: Jamie Hunt, James Bruce, Paul Cleaver, Steve Walters, Ian Breedon, Thomas Ben.