2 Nov 2018

Rugby: Dixon to lead Maori All Blacks side with ten debutants

10:33 am on 2 November 2018

Hawkes Bay's Ash Dixon will captain the Maori All Blacks alongside ten debutants for their opening tour match against the United States in Chicago on Sunday afternoon.

The locking combination of Isaia Walker-Leawere and Pari Pari Parkinson, wingers Jonah Lowe and Regan Ware and loose forward Mitch Karpik will make their Maori All Blacks debuts and have been included in the starting fifteen.

"Izzy (Walker-Leawere) and Pari Pari (Parkinson) come off the back of some great Mitre 10 Cup campaigns. They're extremely big rigs, 270 odd kilos between then; a lot of raw meat, real power, and if they put that to good use I'm sure the team will benefit from it" said coach Clayton McMillan.

Ash Dixon will captain the Maori All Blacks against the USA Eagles in Chicago.

Ash Dixon will captain the Maori All Blacks against the USA Eagles in Chicago. Photo: Photosport

Experience comes in the form of established midfielders Teihorangi Walden and Rob Thompson and front row of Dixon, Chris Eves and Ben May.

Robbie Abel, Hoani Matenga, Billy Harmon, Josh Ioane and Matty Lansdown are all in line for debut from the bench.

McMillan said the team has been enjoying their preparation in Chicago but there were challenges.

"Chicago has been great to us. It's a fantastic city and the weather has been kind to us. The boys who joined us over the weekend, have got into the books and got up to speed quickly and are good to go.

"Some of the guys are a little bit banged up - 100 minutes of rugby in the Mitre 10 Cup Final has taken its toll but we're managing the boys' loads pretty closely as we don't want to overcook them."

"Regan's opportunity comes unfortunately through an injury to Caleb Makene who was injured in the Final.

"Regan trained with us at our camp in Tauranga and made a really good impression and fortunately, the All Blacks Sevens accommodated our request to have him released."

McMillan said he was expecting their USA opposition to be physically demanding.

"They'll be what we expect from a lot of American athletes, big, strong, a direct style of rugby, a lot of mauling … a very physical encounter.

"We're prepared to match fire with fire but want to be smart and use a bit of width as well. We need to respect the fact that the Eagles have some power up front," he said.

"They have tall timber and we need to ensure we get our share of quality ball to give our backs the opportunity to play and to have a mindset of spreading the ball and doing justice to the Maori jersey and playing a brand of rugby that is synonymous with Maori rugby - and that is about showing a lot of flair and confidence, in a free spirited nature."

The Maori All Blacks will then head to Sao Paulo to play Brazil and then onto Chile.