Māori All Blacks coach Colin Cooper has named his squad for the upcoming match against the British & Irish Lions next weekend in Rotorua.
Cooper will have Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Reiko and Akira Ioane to select as both players will be released by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen
Cooper (Ngāti Pukenga, Ngāti Porou) says, “The three have toured with us, the three of us know how we want to play, the expectations with our culture.”
The Ioane brothers (Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāpuhi) could well play the Lions for three different teams after tasting victory last night for the Blues
Akira says, “I'm just grateful for the opportunity, I'm just happy to be in the environment for the first time."
“I've still been on a high, I'm just real stoked and proud, especially to have my brother with me,” says Rieko.
The Māori All Blacks will also play in a jersey which is dedicated Te Arawa leader Mita Hikairo Mohi which was designed by their kaumātua Luke Crawford (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Porou).
“It's a tribute to him. The name of the jersey is Mita, which is named after the Te Arawa elder who passed away last year,” says Crawford.
That aside, it's business first for coach Colin Cooper who now has to assemble 27 young men in time for the match.
“I think it's a combination of making sure we get the set-piece right so that we can launch. And then once we can launch, and hopefully get over the gain line, then opening the game up to play with flair,” says Cooper.
The first thing on Colin Cooper's agenda is to find his Vice-Captain, which will be revealed when the squad gets named.