Three Horowhenua-Kāpiti rugby players have made the New Zealand Heartland XV rugby team for a three-match stint that includes international matches in the Pacific.
Jaxon Tagavaitau (Shannon), Himiona Henare (COB) and Willie Paia'aua (COB) have all been selected for the 26-man squad, while the NZ Heartland XV would be coached by Mark Rutene, who was also the Horowhenua-Kāpiti assistant coach this season.
The New Zealand Heartland XV would play three matches: their annual fixture against New Zealand Marist team for the McRae Cup, and two matches against Vanua XV in Fiji.
Rutene has selected 13 players that were involved in the Pasifika Challenge II match against Samoa in July, with 12 players in line for their Heartland XV debut.
He said the standard of Mitre 10 Heartland Championship had been impressive in 2019 and he was looking forward to assembling the squad.
"We have a really good balance of players who will be new to the team and those who have been involved in past campaigns," he said.
"It is great to be able to reward players who have performed well in their provincial colours over the past few months, I'm sure they are excited about the opportunity to wear the black jersey and represent their families and Unions."
Rutene said the goal will be to get the players to connect in a short space of time so that they can come together on the field.
"We know we have the best players from across the Heartland Unions coming together, so there is no lack of skill or talent. The key is getting them all on the same page with how we want to play so we can put out three good performances," said Rutene.
The New Zealand Heartland XV: Carl Carmichael (King Country), Josh Clark, Ralph Darling, Meli Kolinisau, Patrick Pati, Robbie Smith (North Otago), Anthony Ellis (Buller), Tim Priest, Tristan Flutey (Wairarapa Bush), Hone Haerewa (East Coast), Campbell Hart, Peni Nabainivalu (Wanganui), Jaxon Tagavaitau, Willie Paia'aua, Himiona Henare (Horowhenua-Kapiti), Troy Tauwhare, Sione Holani, Tyler Kearns (West Coast), Seta Koroitamana (Mid-Canterbury), Willie Wright, Nick Strachan, Regan O'Gorman, Miles Medlicott (South Canterbury), Brett Ranga (Thames Valley), Alex Thrupp, Churlainn Sowerby (King Country).