The New Zealand Maori team has been bolstered by the inclusion of four All Blacks for their test against the USA.

Elliot Dixon, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Rieko Ioane and Damian McKenzie have all been named to start in a cross-pollination exercise that benefits the All Blacks as much as it does the Maori.

Head coach Steve Hansen suggested before his squad left for Chicago that he may offer a handful of qualified fringe players to the Maori - knowing that the likes of Dixon, Kerr-Barlow, Ioane and McKenzie may only see limited game time throughout the All Blacks tour of the USA and Europe.

All four played for the Maori last year making it a comfortable decision for coach Colin Cooper to include them in the starting XV for Friday night's [Saturday 1pm NZ time] clash with the Eagles.


"These guys are all familiar with our environment so we know that they are able to move between the All Blacks and our squad with great ease," said Cooper. "The Māori All Blacks is another home for those guys. This is the most experienced squad we've had for a while, and many of the players who played for us last year have stepped up a level from there."

Highlanders hooker Ash Dixon will captain a side that on paper appears to be one of the strongest the Maori have picked in some time.

The pack is bolstered by one-cap All Black Kane Hames and Tom Franklin - who was with the All Blacks in June although he didn't play - is at lock. With Akira Ioane at No 8, James Lowe on the wing and a midfield pairing of Tim Bateman and Matt Proctor, there is ample ball-winning and ball-playing potential throughout the team.

"We have a really experienced playing 23, with only three new caps, starting with Kara Pryor who had a very good season with the Blues and then carried that into the Mitre 10 Cup," said Cooper.

"He was close to being named in the squad last year but was injured so it's good to be able to give him a start. The other two, Marcel Renata and Leighton Price, will come off the bench this Friday; they played well in Mitre 10 Cup and it's good to be able to give them a chance to earn a cap for this team.

"Ash Dixon takes on the captaincy duties this year but really he's been part of the set up for a while. He has experience as a leader on the field, and with former captain Tim Bateman back in the mix, I know that the team will have some really solid decision makers on the field.

"The preparation time in Chicago has been good and they were clear about their game plan. The main focus will be on playing our game and making sure we give the USA due respect. We've have had a look at them and they have a big raw game, a big pack and we will need to play with some structure. We will want to have a good focus on attack and defend with a lot of go forward."

NEW ZEALAND MAORI: Damian McKenzie, Rieko Ioane, Matt Proctor, Tim Bateman, James Lowe, Ihaia West, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Akira Ioane, Kara Pryor, Elliot Dixon, Tom Franklin, Jacob Skeen, Ben May, Ash Dixon (c), Kane Hames. RESERVES: Joe Royal, Chris Eves, Marcel Renata, Leighton Price, Shane Christie, Brad Weber, Marty McKenzie, Sean Wainui.