Charlie Ngatai and Nehe Milner-Skudder have been included in a Maori All Blacks squad to face the British and Irish Lions.
Maori All Blacks coach Colin Cooper has named an experienced 27-man group bristling with attacking talent for the Lions’ fifth tour match, at Rotorua on June 17.
Chiefs back Ngatai – who has played once for the All Blacks – is included despite ongoing concussion concerns.
He spent a year on the sideline because of the symptoms and he experienced headaches again after finally returning to the field last month.
All Blacks 2015 World Cup star Milner-Skudder missed most of last year with a shoulder problem and has been sidelined for much of 2017 with a foot complaint, before recently returning to the fray with the Hurricanes.
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Cooper must put together a backline that features that pair, along with Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie, an unlucky omission from the All Blacks squad.
Intriguingly, in-form Chiefs winger James Lowe is listed as a midfield back.
Hooker Ash Dixon is captain of a squad boasting ample Super Rugby experience.
Veteran loose forward Liam Messam is the senior figure in a forward pack that includes three-Test flanker Elliot Dixon.
There are just three newcomers to the Maori jersey – halfbacks Bryn Hall (Crusaders) and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Hurricanes) and midfield back Rob Thompson (Highlanders).
Cooper said the magnitude of the match was huge and representing Maoridom meant they are never short of motivation.
“Knowing the ground will be full for the match, and getting a feel for the support that’s coming from the Rotorua community in hosting us, along with the rest of New Zealand around the series and the match itself is exciting,” Cooper said.
These two sides last met in 2005, when the Maori side won a fierce contest 19-13 in Hamilton.
Maori All Blacks squad:
Backs: Damian McKenzie, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Declan O’Donnell, James Lowe, Matt Proctor, Rob Thompson, Charlie Ngatai, Tim Bateman, Otere Black, Ihaia West, Bryn Hall, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
Forwards: Akira Ioane, Liam Messam, Kara Pryor, Elliot Dixon, Reed Prinsep, Tom Franklin, Leighton Price, Joe Wheeler, Chris Eves, Kane Hames, Mike Kainga, Ben May, Marcel Renata, Ash Dixon (capt), Hika Elliot.
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Milner-Skudder headlines Maori ABs squad
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