22 Oct 2014

Maori game in Singapore called off

11:42 am on 22 October 2014

The Maori All Blacks will play just two matches on their tour of Asia next month with the match in Singapore cancelled.

The 27-man squad has been named and will be captained by Taranaki centre Charlie Ngatai.

Maori All Black captain 2014 Charlie Ngatai

Maori All Black captain 2014 Charlie Ngatai Photo: NZRU

The Maori will play two matches against Japan, but the third game against the Asia Pacific Dragons in Singapore has been called off because of the state of the pitch at the National Stadium.

The Maori All Blacks squad to take on Japan next month was named in Wellington on Monday and features 11 new caps.

Coach Colin Cooper says he's pleased with the mix of youth and experience in the 2014 squad, which includes 16 players who took part in last year's North American Tour.

He says they have some exciting young players keen to make their mark like Joe Webber and Marty McKenzie who are capped for the first time, plus some very experienced older hands like Shane Christie and Elliot Dixon, so it's a very well balanced side.

Cooper says they are very conscious that this team plays an important role in New Zealand Rugby's high performance strategy so their selections are very much guided by that.

He says they see this tour as a valuable opportunity for players to show what they can do on the international stage.

Charlie Ngatai succeeds Tim Bateman as captain. Bateman is now playing offshore.

Maori All Blacks (* denotes new cap):

Hookers: Joe Royal, Ash Dixon, Codie Taylor*

Props: Chris Eves, Mike Kainga*, Nicholas Barrett, Brendon Edmonds*

Locks: Tom Franklin*, Joseph Wheeler

Loose forwards: Shane Christie, Blade Thomson, Liam Squire, Elliot Dixon, Sean Polwart*, Dan Pryor*

Halfbacks: Jamison Gibson-Park, Chris Smylie

First five eighths: Ihaia West, Marty McKenzie*

Midfield backs: Jason Emery*, Charlie Ngatai (c), James Lowe*

Outside backs: Matt Proctor, Kurt Baker, Joe Webber*, Nehe Milner-Skudder*, Robbie Robinson

Taranaki loosie Blade Thompson

Taranaki loosie Blade Thompson Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The team plays Japan on Saturday November 1st at Kobe and on Saturday November 8th at Tokyo's Prince Chichibu Stadium.

Players not considered because of injury were Hika Elliott, Ben Afeaki and Luke Braid.

On the cancelation of the Singapore game, New Zealand Rugby General Manager Planning and Operations Nigel Cass says they feel somewhat let down that this has happened at this late stage, however, the safety of the players is paramount and they were unable to get the assurances needed that the pitch was playable.