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Fresh faces boost Black Sticks men

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/02/2017

Cory Bennett. © Joel Ford/Getty Images Cory Bennett. New Black Sticks men's coach Darren Smith has named a young and exciting team to take on Pakistan in Wellington and Wairarapa next month.

Four players will debut in the world No.8 Black Sticks' first competition of the year, with a core of experienced players balancing out the young talent.

Mac Wilcox, Nick Elder, Cam Hayde and Jonty Keaney will suit up for the first time in the five-Test series which begins in Wellington on March 17 against 14th-ranked Pakistan.

Two further matches on March 18 and 20 will be followed by games at Clareville in the Wairarapa on March 22 and 23.

Defender/midfielder Arun Panchia, who has played 205 Tests for New Zealand, defender Nick Haig (200) and hometown striker Stephen Jenness (173) will provide a solid backbone of experience against the 14th-ranked Pakistanis..

Smith said the series provides the chance to set a benchmark ahead of an important year which has World Cup qualification on the line at the World League Semi Final in South Africa.

"This is a very exciting side including some great young talent who have a good opportunity to test themselves against a hard-nosed opponent in Pakistan," he said.

"Pakistan will be a quick and aggressive attacking team so we'll need to be on our game."

Experienced players Blair Hilton, Hugo Inglis, Jacob Smith, Jared Panchia, Marcus Child, Shea McAleese, Kane Russell, Blair Tarrant and Nic Woods are playing club hockey in Europe and unavailable for selection.

Simon Child, George Muir and Hayden Phillips are sidelined through injury.

Black Sticks: Cory Bennett, David Brydon, James Coughlan, Rob Creffier, Nick Elder, George Enersen, Nick Haig, Cam Hayde, Stephen Jenness, Richard Joyce, Jonty Kearney, Kim Kingstone, Sam Lane, Devon Manchester, Leo Mitai-Wells, Harry Miskimmin, Dominic Newman, Arun Panchia, Nick Ross, Alex Shaw, Mac Wilcox.

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