19 Dec 2008

New Zealand Maori rugby side dropped

10:02 am on 19 December 2008

There will be no national Maori rugby side next year as the New Zealand Rugby Union looks to trim $1 million from its national teams budget.

Rugby union chief executive Steve Tew said the Maori side will be replaced in the Pacific Nations Cup by the Junior All Blacks.

He says given the limited opportunities to assemble national sides in 2009, priority is being given to the Junior All Blacks as the country's second ranked team.

Mr Tew says the union is looking to arrange matches for the Maori side overseas, however, the matches will have to be generate enough revenue to cover the costs of assembling the team.

The Heartland 15 - the national side selected from second and third division players - has also been dropped, as has the men's provincial B side competition.

Mr Tew said even though the union is taking a sensible approach to its budget it is still predicting a loss for the next financial year.

Former Maori All Black unhappy

Former Maori All Black Dennis Hansen says he is disgusted the squad has not been allocated any fixtures in next year's rugby calendar.

Mr Hansen represented Maori in the early 1960s before becoming a selector for Auckland Maori rugby.

He told Waatea News the Maori side acts as a launch pad for players to achieve higher honours, as was proven this year by Piri Weepu, Hosea Gear, Jason Eaton, Ross Filipo and Steve Waldrom.

Mr Hansen says consideration should be given to the establishment of a Maori rugby regime that is separate to the NZRU.

Matt Te Pou, who coached the team for 10 years and retired after the side's famous win against the British Lions in 2005, is not impressed by the move.

He said the union should continue to invest in the team given the high level of Maori representation at all levels of rugby.

Former All Black captain and New Zealand Maori player Wayne Shelford said Maori rugby has a long history and should take precedence over the Junior All Blacks.

The Maori rugby team was first formed in 1888.