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New Zealand Māori will play their only match of this year, next month against Moana Pasifika, the potential basis for a Super Rugby franchise in 2022.
New Zealand Rugby announced the fixture on Thursday, which will see the Clayton McMillan-coached Māori face the Tana Umaga-coached Moana Pasifika at Hamilton’s Stadium Waikato on 05 December.
It will be the first game for the Māori since they beat Fiji 26-17 in Rotorua in July last year, and the first time a team have played under the Moana Pasifika banner.
NZR’s general manager professional rugby, Chris Lendrum, said the match was fitting recognition of the contribution the Māori and Pasifika communities had made to rugby in 2020.
It was also another step on the journey to Super Rugby 2022 which is mooted to include Fiji and Moana Pasifika sides, along with New Zealand and Australian teams.
“It’s an important match for both teams, as a home match for the Māori All Blacks celebrating a team with a long and proud history in Aotearoa, and for the Moana Pasifika group as we take another step on a journey toward our shared desire to stand up a Pasifika team in a future professional club competition,” Lendrum said in a statement.
McMillan (Ngāi Te Rangi) has guided NZ Māori to four wins from five matches since being appointed in late 2017, and has been appointed as the interim Chiefs head coach for 2021. The Māori squad will be named on November 23.
New Zealand Māori Rugby Board chair Dr Farah Palmer said the match was a chance for communities to come together and connect at the end of a year that had disrupted the lives of all New Zealanders.
“Many of our whānau and rangatahi have struggled during 2020 as we’ve dealt with Covid and I know our Māori All Blacks players will appreciate the chance to represent their iwi, hapū and their whānau, and to provide some positivity for their community.
“This game also highlights the importance of health and wellbeing, and will be an opportunity to celebrate whānau resilience, and also our shared whakapapa with the Pasifika community in that we all came to Aotearoa, New Zealand for the wellbeing of our whānau and aiga.”
Umaga was the first captain of the All Blacks of Pasifika heritage and awarded an officer of the New Zealand order of merit for services to rugby.
The Moana Pasifika group has secured players of Pasifika heritage, made up of current and former international players, and a number of players eligible for international Pasifika teams. The squad will be announced later this month.
Moana Pasifika patron Tuafa’asisina Sir Bryan Williams said the match would hold great significance to the Pasifika community.
“This match is a great opportunity to showcase the exciting Pasifika talent that runs throughout New Zealand rugby’s community and it will be a huge honour for these players to play against a team with the mana, heritage and quality of the Māori All Blacks.
“It’s also another big step toward our desire to have a Pasifika professional team in Super Rugby and to provide an aspirational pathway for players to progress through to the national teams of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.”.
SOURCE: STUFF NZ/PACNEWS
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