Bay of Plenty region, Māori rugby and the Maniapoto name have an intrinsic link to one another.

Huri, Manu and the late Jim Maniapoto were famous for their rugby pedigree: the three brothers represent the Bay of Plenty and the Māori All Blacks.

You won't see the Maniapoto name in the playing 23 when the Māori All Blacks play against the Flying Fijians in Rotorua on July 20, but take a look a little further down the team list and the name does make an appearance.

Maru Maniapoto is a nephew to three rugby legends and is the liaison officer for the Māori All Blacks.

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His link to Māori rugby doesn't end there. Maru's father Nepia was a proud Whakarewarewa Rugby Club player who also wore the Southern Māori jersey.

Whakapapa and Māori culture play a significant role in Maru's whānau — his sister is singer/song writer Moana Maniapoto.

The Tuwharetoa/Ngāti Pikiao and Tuhourangi descendant says Whakapapa and Māori culture also play a significant role in the Māori All Blacks.

"It makes you who you are so it's pretty important to know where you're from. We always talk about those whakapapa connections, those relationships. It's something that lives and breathes within the team."

Rotorua's Maru Maniapoto is a nephew to three rugby legends and is the liaison officer for the Maori All Blacks. Photo / Ben Fraser
Rotorua's Maru Maniapoto is a nephew to three rugby legends and is the liaison officer for the Maori All Blacks. Photo / Ben Fraser

Maniapoto says he expects the encounter to be an epic battle between the two sides.
"The Fijians beat France so it will be a competitive match. They are building up for the World Cup and they have some big strike power.

"The MABs don't have any All Blacks available for this match but we will have the next tier down and it will give them the opportunity to push for a place in the World Cup squad. So there is a lot to play for."

It will be the first time Maori All Blacks coach Clayton McMillan has coached the team on home soil and Maniapoto says it will be great to see the home crowd come out in droves to support a hometown lad.

"It's a special game for Clayton, he's a Whaka boy, he's played for the Bay and is a Rotorua Boys' High School old boy.

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"It's pretty awesome he's made it to where he is. There are a lot of people who want to be where he is. It's a tough position but he's doing well."

Kickoff for the Maori All Blacks vs Flying Fijians game is 7.30pm but there will be pre-game activities for the crowds.

Along with the Under-20 Māori taking on a Fijian Under-20 side in the curtain-raiser, there will be an Ahurei Pasifika Celebration at Westbrook Fields from noon-6pm.

There will be Pacific food stalls, art and entertainment. Entry is free and parking will be free until 4pm.

"It's awesome for our cousins from the Fiji community and the other island communities to have their culture on display."

Tickets for the Maori All Blacks vs Fiji game are available on allblacks.com.