Moana Pasifika unveil star-studded squad to face Māori All Blacks

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 24 Nov 2020, 8:02PM
Tana Umaga will coach Moana Pasifika against the Māori All Blacks. Photo / Photosport
Tana Umaga will coach Moana Pasifika against the Māori All Blacks. Photo / Photosport

Moana Pasifika unveil star-studded squad to face Māori All Blacks

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 24 Nov 2020, 8:02PM

The colours of Pacific nations Fiji, Samoa and Tonga will come together under the first ever Moana Pasifika squad named by head coach and former All Black Tana Umaga for their historic clash against the Māori All Blacks next month.

One-test All Black and Highlanders first-five Josh Ioane was among the star-studded squad for the team set to join Super Rugby in 2022.

The backline includes Super Rugby stars Vince Aso, Fetuli Paea, Stephen Perofeta, Folau Fakatava, Leceister Fainga'anuku and Salesi Rayasi.

Chiefs players Samisoni Taukieaho and Pita Gus Sowakula, as well as Crusaders Michael Alaalatoa, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Sione Mafileo and Nasi Manu were also among the players named in the side.

Umaga congratulated the players selected for the first ever Moana Pasifika side to take on one of New Zealand's favourite teams.

"We're really proud of the squad we have selected – it's a great side. We were really spoilt for choice with selections, and as we have always known, players were really drawn to be part of this special team. We believe we have selected a squad that represents a great mix of players who identify with the great nations of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

"Many of the players are contracted Super Rugby players and all but one have proudly represented their provinces in Mitre 10 Cup in 2020. Although Wellington-raised Tomasi Alosio hasn't played Mitre 10 Cup this year, he is an established anchor for Samoan rugby, having dedicated most of his career to Samoa sevens.

"We have nine players who have represented one of these three Pacific nations; seven have played at Rugby World Cup or World Cup Sevens tournaments. We are really grateful to have had great support from the coaching teams of the Manu Samoa and Ikale Tahi (Tonga) as they also see this as an opportunity to build Pasifika home nations rugby talent and capability first.

"For some players like Josh Ioane, this may be the only opportunity they will get to play for a team that acknowledges their Pacific heritage, in a one-off fixture like this, and we're excited to have them in the mix."

Umaga said he was excited to give the players to connect with their culture and heritage.

"We know these players know how to play rugby, and under the Moana Pasifika banner we know they will represent their heritage with pride. This is a true Pasifika side with all of our players not only identifying as strongly with their Pasifika nation, but they also bring a special strength of tradition, culture and language from their families.

"I'm proud of this squad, and excited we can offer the opportunity for some of our players to connect with their culture and acknowledge their parents and families while for others they will continue their proud commitment to their Pasifika heritage.

"I'm looking forward to our Pasifika community turning out in force to do what they do so well, and fly their flags in loud and colourful support of our team against the Māori All Blacks in Hamilton on December 5."

Moana Pasifika was backed heavily for inclusion in next year's Super Rugby competition, but New Zealand Rugby decided the team needed time to prepare for the 2022 season instead.

It means the clash against the Māori All Blacks will be an important one for the team ahead of 2021, which will be used to build the Moana Pasifika brand and commercial support to join Super Rugby in 2022.

NZ Rugby are expected to announce the makeup of Super Rugby 2022 at the end of this month, which will likely comprise 12 teams with Moana Pasifika and the Suva-based Fiji Drua favoured to join the five established New Zealand and Australian sides.

Moana Pasifika patron Sir Bryan Williams welcomed the first squad naming as an excellent tribute to the special relationship Pasifika nations have with rugby.

"This is a special day. We are delighted to be able to celebrate bringing together a team of players who are proud of their Pasifika heritage and give them an opportunity to represent the other nations with which they identify.

"As Pasifika, we see this match as an event to honour Tangata Whenua our Tuakana-Teina relationship here in Aotearoa, celebrate our whānau and tamariki, their physical and mental health, and well-being through rugby."

Ex-Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger, who has Cook Islands heritage, and Blues coaches Tom Coventry and Ben Afeaki will join Umaga in the coaching box.

The team to play the Māori All Blacks will be named on Thursday 3 December.

Moana Pasifika squad

Forwards: Alamanda Motuga (Counties Manukau, Tonga), Daniel Lienert-Brown (Canterbury, Highlanders, Samoa), Gerard Cowley-Tuioti (North Harbour, Blues, Samoa), Jordan Lay (Bay of Plenty, Bristol, Samoa), Leni Apisai (Auckland, Samoa/Tuvalu), Marino Mikaele-Tu'u (Hawkes Bay, Highlanders, Samoa), Michael Alaalatoa (Manawatu, Crusaders, Samoa), Naitoa Ah Kuoi (Wellington, Chiefs, Samoa), Nasi Manu (Otago, Tonga), Pita Gus Sowakula (Taranaki, Chiefs, Fiji), Samipeni Finau (Waikato, Tonga) Samisoni Taukieaho (Waikato, Chiefs, Tonga), Sione Mafielo (North Harbour, Blues, Tonga), Zane Kapeli (Bay of Plenty, Tonga).

Backs: Asaeli Tikoroituma (North Harbour, Fiji), Dwyane Polataivao (Tasman, Utah Warriors, Samoa), Etene Nanai-Seturo (Counties Manukau, Chiefs, Samoa), Fetuli Paea (Tasman, Highlanders Tonga), Folau Fakatava (Hawke's Bay, Highlanders, Tonga), Jone Macilai (Northland, Fiji), Josh Ioane (Otago, Highlanders, NZ/Samoa), Leicester Fainga'anuku (Tasman, Crusaders, Tonga), Salesi Rayasi (Auckland, Hurricanes, Fiji/Samoa), Stephen Perofeta (Taranaki, Blues, Samoa), Tomasi Alosio (Wellington, Samoa), Vince Aso (Wellington, Hurricanes, Samoa)