Topic: Rugby

Ngatai prepared to lead Māori All Blacks against Japan

There's only one more day until the Māori All Blacks take to battle at the "Dragons' Den" for their first test against Japan.

Charlie Ngatai is ready to lead the Māori All Blacks and the rest of the team are ready, knowing they won't be running out on to the field alone. They all carry with them the history of the jersey, the strength of their ancestors and of course, the whole of Māoridom.

20,000 tickets have been sold for the test match at Nouvier Stadium, that's a big number for here. I have no doubt we'll see a few Māori faces in the crowd but most of the numbers will be made up of Japanese rugby fanatics supporting the home team.

The last time Ngatai led a team was back in high school, so it's a little different this time round.

“It's pretty tough.  You have to worry about all the boys but it's enjoyable,” says Ngatai.

He's a quiet leader but well-respected within the team, he also appreciates sharing the responsibilities that come with the captaincy with the other experienced guys in the team.

Ngatai says, “I've got a group leadership group around me, Hayden Triggs, Nick Crosswell and Robbie Robinson and a few others, it's been awesome they help out with all the duties and makes my job a lot easier.”

Hayden Triggs debuted for the Māori All Blacks in 2007 but last wore the jersey back in 2010, he says despite the four year-absence nothing has changed.

“The coaches and management have changed and the team as well but the feeling and the mana in the team are the same,” says Hayden Triggs.

Trigg's knowledge of Japanese rugby is also priceless having played in Japan for three seasons for the Honda club in Sizuka.

“We expect them to be agile, fit, and pretty expansive with Eddie Jones running the cutter and they have some pretty players in the team,” says Triggs.

Despite the threat that Japan poses the Māori All Blacks think they have the right balance.

Ngatai says, “It helps to have the experience on the field at the time but we've got a pretty sharp team with a few young backs that can step and hopefully we can see on Saturday.”

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