The New Zealand Barbarians have named a strong squad to face the Māori All Blacks at Eden Park next Saturday, July 18th.
The Barbarians side includes George Moala and Tom Taylor, who were both in Samoa with the All Blacks, while All Blacks squad member Cory Jane makes his long-awaited comeback from injury.
Other features of the squad are the selection of seven players who were involved in last week's Super Rugby final, along with former All Blacks James Parsons, Luke Whitelock and Dominic Bird, and two of the World Rugby Under 20 championship New Zealand team - Auckland loose forward Blake Gibson and Taranaki halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
Injury to Hurricanes loose forward Ardie Savea prevented his selection. The Barbarians will be coached by Highlanders assistant coach Scott McLeod, along with Hawke's Bay's Craig Philpott and Auckland's Paul Feeney.
"There's a lot of new, emerging and exciting talent, and some who are currently in the All Blacks environment. Both Blake and Te Toiroa had outstanding campaigns for the New Zealand Under 20. It's Barbarian tradition to have a young guy involved and we felt comfortable with these guys coming in for the two available slots," said McLeod.
The clash will be the first between the two teams since the 2010 Maori Centenary Series, when the Maori All Blacks defeated the Barbarians 37-31 in Whangarei.
New Zealand Barbarians:
Mitchell Graham (Taranaki)
Reg Goodes (Wellington)
Ofa Tu'ungafasi (Auckland)
Ben Tameifuna (Waikato)
Liam Coltman (Otago)
James Parsons (North Harbour)
Alex Ainley (Tasman)
Joseph Wheeler (Tasman)
Dominic Bird (Canterbury)
Brad Shields (Wellington)
Blake Gibson (Auckland)
Luke Whitelock (Canterbury)
Jordan Taufua (Counties)
Mitchell Drummond (Canterbury)
Te Toiroa Tahuiorangi (Taranaki)
Andrew Horrell (Hawke's Bay)
Ihaia West (Hawke's Bay)
George Moala (Auckland)
Seta Tamanivalu (Taranaki)
Patrick Osborne (Canterbury)
Cory Jane (Wellington)
Richard Buckman (Hawke's Bay)
Tom Taylor (Canterbury)
Barbarians to visit Eden Park beforehand
The Barbarians assemble as a full squad in Auckland on Tuesday and have planned a visit to the impressive Barbarians clubrooms at Eden Park to gain a feel for the club and the famous scarlet jersey which they will wear.
"We want the players to understand who they are representing and why, so they will check out the photos and memorabilia on the walls and talk to the club members. We want them to feel they are playing for something special and for them to own that performance," McLeod said, adding that the side will adhere to the traditional Barbarians open rugby, but still with the ultimate aim of winning the clash. He is under no illusions as to how tough the Māori All Blacks will be, especially as they will be coming off an international against Fiji in Suva.
Fans urged to see two great sides in action
Barbarians club president, the All Blacks great Bryan 'Beegee' Williams, is well versed in the history and traditions of the club, and is eagerly looking forward to the match.
"From the Barbarians' point of view, it is great to have a fixture at Eden Park," said Williams. "That is where we are based. Both the Māori All Blacks and New Zealand Barbarians are renowned for enterprising rugby. They have always been crowd-pleasing matches, so get along there!"
"One would think it will be a pseudo-All Blacks trial, particularly for some of the hopefuls who want to force their way into the squad. It's a golden opportunity to show themselves in front of the selectors and the public that they have the wherewithal to make the team."
Barbarians haven't played big game since '85; 1st Māori visit to Eden Park in 25 years
The Barbarians were once a regular feature in first-class fixtures at Eden Park, but their last big match was in 1985, losing 31-10 to Auckland. The Māori have not played on Eden Park since a 22-9 loss to the great Auckland side of 1990. A 1981 Māori Invitation XV did draw 20-20 with the Barbarians at Eden Park.
In 2014 the Barbarians played non-first class matches against the Blues and Highlanders. It is part of the club's strategic plan to seek more meaningful, high profile games to augment their long-time goal of fostering grassroots and, in particular, schoolboy rugby. They sponsor the annual Top 4 national schools tournament and the New Zealand Area Schools side, along with the NZ Barbarians Schools side, as part of the NZ Schools programme.
Established in 1937, the Barbarians' club membership is by invitation only. Current All Blacks who are Barbarians are Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu and Kieran Read.