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Six newcomers in Maori All Blacks squad

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 25/10/2016 Daniel Gilhooly

Maori All Blacks coach Colin Cooper reckons he has the personnel at his disposal to continue a winning streak which is longer than the national team's.

While the All Blacks have cracked the tier one Test world record with 18 straight wins, the Maori side sit on 19 in succession against international opponents since 2003.

Cooper on Tuesday named a tour squad he believes can maintain that run when they face the United States in Chicago on Friday next week.

Hawke's Bay hooker Ash Dixon is captain of a 27-strong group which will feature at least six uncapped players for the three-match tour.

They face Irish club Munster in Limerick on November 11 and English outfit Harlequins in London five days later.

Cooper is still to name an outside back to complete his squad. Taranaki winger Declan O'Donnell was ruled out of the tour on Tuesday after it was found he had fractured his wrist during Sunday's NPC semi-final loss to Tasman.

Five of the six uncapped players named are forwards, along with Tasman halfback Billy Guyton.

Wellington hooker and New Zealand under-20 skipper Leni Apisai is called in, along with Northland flanker Kara Pryor, Canterbury flanker Reed Prinsep, Taranaki lock Leighton Price and Waikato lock/flanker Whetu Douglas.

Two All Blacks are in the 26-man squad. Halfback Brad Weber played a Test off the bench against Samoa last year while prop Kane Hames did the same against Australia in Sydney two months ago.

A notable selection is that of former Crusaders and Hurricanes midfield back Tim Bateman, 29, who hasn't played in New Zealand since taking up a Japanese contract two years ago.

Dixon takes over as skipper from Taranaki and Chiefs midfield back Charlie Ngatai, who is still recovering from concussion suffered late in the Super Rugby season.

"It will be a demanding tour," Cooper said.

"We made sure we had some pretty hardened warriors that can deal with a Test match and then, later, a five-day turnaround."

Cooper said the games in Chicago and Limerick had nearly sold out, indicating how popular the Maori brand remained.

He says the pressure will be on the players to maintain the team's remarkable standards.

"We're on the same page when it comes to how we want this team to operate because of the short time we have to prepare," he said.

"Quick ball is the key to us. Our game is a continuity game with Maori rugby."

The Maori All Blacks won their only international game last year, pipping Fiji 27-26 in Suva.

They lost a subsequent game to a New Zealand Barbarians selection.

The Chicago game falls one day before the All Blacks face Ireland in the same city.

Maori All Blacks:

Backs: James Lowe, Matt Proctor, Sean Wainui, Jason Emery, Tim Bateman, Marty McKenzie, Ihaia West, Otere Black, Brad Weber, Billy Guyton

Forwards: Akira Ioane, Shane Christie, Kara Pryor, Reed Prinsep, Whetu Douglas, Tom Franklin, Jacob Skeen, Leighton Price, Kane Hames, Marcel Renata, Chris Eves, Ben May, Mike Kainga, Ash Dixon (capt), Leni Apisai, Joe Royal.

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