McKenzie pilots star-studded Maori side


Chiefs flyer Damian McKenzie will pilot a star-studded Maori All Blacks from No.10 when they face the British & Irish Lions in Rotorua on Saturday night.

Usually a fullback with the two-time Super Rugby champions, McKenzie has been handed the playmaking responsibilities by Maori coach Colin Cooper. But the two-Test All Black will have plenty of familiar faces around with fellow Chiefs backs Charlie Ngatai and James Lowe named at inside centre and fullback respectively.

Lowe joins All Blacks Nehe Milner-Skudder and Rieko Ioane in a supremely-talented and pacey back three and one sure to ask plenty of questions of the tourists’ defence.

“We’ve named a strong group who all have good clarity on how we want to play this match against the Lions,” Cooper said. “We feel Damian will suit the game plan that we want to play, from the No.10 position.”

Up front, All Blacks duo Elliot Dixon and Liam Messam are joined by rising Blues forward Akira Ioane in the back-row while Joe Wheeler and Tom Franklin form an all-Highlanders lock combination.

The Maori will be captained by hooker Ash Dixon with Kane Hames and Ben May completing the front-row.

Maori All Blacks: James Lowe, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Matt Proctor, Charlie Ngatai, Rieko Ioane, Damian McKenzie, Tawera Kerr-Barlow; Liam Messam, Elliot Dixon, Akira Ioane, Tom Franklin, Joe Wheeler, Ben May, Ash Dixon, Kane Hames.

Replacements: Hikawera Elliot, Chris Eves, Marcel Renata 19, Leighton Price, Kara Pryor, Bryn Hall, Ihaia West, Rob Thompson.