OPINION: History makes Maori All Blacks selection a focus

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Lynn McConnell     07 Jun 2017     Getty Images

That win was the culmination of some great rugby careers in the New Zealand game, but it is likely a less experienced side will be available this year.
Much will depend on who the All Blacks selectors leave out of their side and it may be that some prospective candidates are given an outing with the Maori instead of just being squad members when the All Blacks play Samoa the night before the Maori game. 

Contenders for the fullback role in Rotorua therefore could be Damian McKenzie or Nehe Milner-Skudder. Marty McKenzie was used on last year's Maori All Blacks tour but has lacked game time for the Crusaders this year.

Milner-Skudder could also be an option for right wing along with Reiko Ioane while James Lowe looms likely as the most viable option on the left wing.

At centre Matt Proctor is set to resume playing for the Hurricanes this week after an injury break and could be included in the squad depending on his fitness. Sean Wainui toured with the Maori last year and while lacking game time with the Crusaders he could be in the selectors' minds still while also offering midfield choice are Tim Bateman from the Crusaders and Rob Thompson from the Highlanders. 

As was the case last year it is likely that Otere Black and Ihaia West will be the considerations for first five-eighths while at halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow could feature with Billy Guyton again in the frame or the Hurricanes back-up halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi who had such a fine season for Taranaki last year. 

Akira Ioane shapes as a likely No.8 in the side while Liam Messam would be a useful utility anywhere in the loose forwards. Kara Pryor's stunning form in the last two weeks could be timely for his chances of playing on the openside of the scrum while Elliot Dixon and Reed Prinsep could be useful on the blindside.
Tom Franklin is likely to head the locking options for the side with Leighton Price and Jacob Skeen, all three being tourists with the Maori All Blacks last November. 

In the front row Kane Hames and Chris Eves would be loosehead contenders for the side while Ben May should be frontrunner in the tighthead stakes. Auckland's Marcel Renata hasn't featured in Super Rugby this year but was on last year's tour and could feature again as back-up.
Last year's captain Ash Dixon is likely to be the choice at hooker where Hika Elliot, Loni Apisai and Joe Royal may also be in the running as back-up players. 

The Maori All Blacks squad could be:
Fullbacks: Damian McKenzie, Nehe Milner-Skudder
Three-quarters: James Lowe, Rieko Ioane, Matt Proctor, Sean Wainui
Five-eighths: Tim Bateman, Rob Thompson, Otere Black, Ihaia West
Half-backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
Loose forwards: Akira Ioane, Liam Messam, Kara Pryor, Reed Prinsep, Elliot Dixon
Locks: Tom Franklin, Jacob Skeen, Leighton Price
Props: Ben May, Marcel Renata, Chris Eves, Kane Hames
Hookers: Ash Dixon, Loni Apisai