Hurricanes flanker Brad Shields will lead a powerful New Zealand Barbarians team against the Maori All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday.
A team comprised almost entirely of Super Rugby players will challenge the Maori side, who are playing their second and final game of the year following a tense 27-26 win over Fiji in Suva last week.
It extended the Maori side’s winning streak since 2003 to 19 games, but they will be hard-pressed to make it 20 at Eden Park.
Reserve halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, from the world champion New Zealand under-20 side, is the only Barbarians player not involved in Super Rugby this year.
Shields is among a handful of players from both teams considered unlucky not to be named in the All Blacks squad.
A handful of Barbarians players joined the All Blacks ahead of their season-opening Test against Samoa, including Blues back George Moala. He made his Test debut on the wing at Apia, scoring New Zealand’s only try in their 25-16 win, but will start at second five-eighth in a power-packed midfield on Saturday alongside Chiefs centre Seta Tamanivalu.
It is an important game for Barbarians wing Cory Jane, who won All Blacks squad inclusion but needs to prove his form and fitness after missing several games at the end of the Hurricanes’ campaign because of a hamstring strain.
Three players – fullback Andrew Horrell, No.8 Luke Whitelock and reserve loose forward Jordan Taufua – played for World XV against South Africa in Cape Town over the weekend.
The Barbarians are coached by Highlanders assistant Scott McLeod, who has included three of his Super Rugby champion side in the starting XV.
The Maori All Blacks have named new caps, including Taranaki centre Sean Wainui in the starting lineup. Four others are on the bench – wing Codey Rei, halfback Brad Weber, No.8 Joe Edwards and prop Marcel Renata.
The Charlie Ngatai-led Maori were buoyed by the nature of their fightback to win in Suva after trailing heavily, coach Colin Cooper says.
MAORI ALL BLACKS
Damian McKenzie, Rieko Ioane, Sean Wainui, Charlie Ngatai (capt), Matt Proctor, Marty McKenzie, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Elliot Dixon, Mitchell Crosswell, Blade Thomson, Hayden Triggs, Joe Wheeler, Brendon Edmonds, Ash Dixon, Joe Moody. Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Joe Royal, Marcel Renata, Akira Ioane, Joe Edwards, Brad Weber, Otere Black, Codey Rei.
Andrew Horrell, Cory Jane, Seta Tamanivalu, George Moala, Patrick Osborne, Tom Taylor, Mitchell Drummond, Luke Whitelock, Blake Gibson, Brad Shields (capt), Dominic Bird, Alex Ainley, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Liam Coltman, Mitchell Graham. Reserves: James Parsons, Reg Goodes, Ben Tameifuna, Mark Reddish, Jordan Taufua, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Ihaia West, Richard Buckman.