ABOVE: New Zealand’s All Blacks “Haka” ritual takes over Toronto. Rob Leth reports.
TORONTO – Canadian rugby coach Kieran Crowley has reinforced his team for the November visit of the New Zealand Maori All Blacks but will still have to do without some key players.
Players unavailable due to club commitments or injury include Brett Buekeboom, Jamie Cudmore, Tom Dolezel, Sean Duke, Tyler Hotson, Phil Mackenzie, Jason Marshall, Nathan Hirayama, James Pritchard, Jebb Sinclair and DTH Van Der Merwe..
Canada hosts the Maori at Toronto’s BMO Field on Nov. 3. The tourists then head to Philadelphia to play the U.S. Eagles on Nov. 10.
The touring Maori roster features six former All Blacks including Corey Flynn, Zac Guildford, Jarrad Hoeata and Piri Weepu.
“It’s an outstanding team when you go through it,” said Crowley, a former All Black himself. “They’ve got some really exciting backs there, some ex-All Blacks as well. And there are some players, if you’ve been watching the ITM Cup in New Zealand, who have certainly been really firing.
“So it’s going to be a massive challenge for us, but it’s one we’re looking forward to.”
Crowley has been denied some of his top second-row talent, due to their club responsibilities. Cudmore, Sinclair, Beukeboon and Hotson are all missing out.
That leaves openings for Jon Phelan, Aaron Flagg and Tyler Ardron to step up.
As the incumbent, Harry Jones probably holds the edge at fly half although Crowley also has Liam Underwood at his disposal.
The New Zealanders are an invitational team drawn from players of Maori descent. The first Maori All Blacks were officially selected in 1910 although the 1888 New Zealand Natives team, the first New Zealand side to wear the famous black jersey, was originally conceived as an all-Maori selection.
The team has a proud, winning heritage.
The Maori have beaten the likes of the British & Irish Lions, England, Ireland and Fiji.
The Maori record since 2005 is 18-2, with the lone losses coming at the hands of the Leicester Tigers, an English powerhouse club, in 2012 and the England Saxons, England’s reserve squad, in 2007.
Canada lost 32-19 to the Maori in 2012 and 59-23 in 2007.
About half of Canada’s 26-man roster is drawn from the team that went 1-2 at the Americas Rugby Championship.
Reinforcements include captain Aaron Carpenter, who has been released from England’s Cornish Pirates along with Matt Evans.
Others returning from overseas clubs are Tyler Ardron, Jeff Hassler, Jon Phelan and Hubert Buydens.
Crowley and the 14th-ranked Canadian team will fly to Europe the day after the Maori game for test matches against No. 16 Georgia in Tbilisi on Nov. 9, Romania in Bucharest on Nov. 16 and Portugal in Lisbon on Nov. 23.
More than 16,000 tickets have already been sold for the Maori game.
Canada’s Roster for New Zealand Maori All Blacks Game
Tyler Ardron, Ospreys (Wales), Lakefield, Ont.; Ray Barkwill, Niagara Wasps RFC, Niagara Falls, Ont.; Nick Blevins, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; Connor Braid, James Bay AA, Victoria; Hubert Buydens, Saskatoon Wild Oats, Saskatoon; Aaron Carpenter (capt.) Cornish Pirates (England), Brantford, Ont.; Nanyak Dala, Castaway Wanderers, Saskatoon; Matt Evans, Cornish Pirates (England), Maple Bay, B.C.; Aaron Flagg, Abbotsford RFC, Abbotsford, B.C.; Kyle Gilmour, St. Albert Rugby Club, Edmonton; Jeff Hassler, Ospreys (Wales), Okotoks, Alta.; Ciaran Hearn, Castaway Wanderers, Conception Bay, N.L.; Jake Illnicki, Williams Lake Rustlers, Williams Lake, B.C.; Harry Jones, Capilano RFC, West Vancouver; Adam Kleeberger, Castaway Wanderers, White Rock, B.C.; Phil Mack, UVic Vikes, Victoria; Jamie Mackenzie, UVic Vikes, Oakville, Ont.; Ryan March, Abbotsford RFC, Abbotsford, B.C.; John Moonlight, James Bay AA, Pickering, Ont.; Pat Parfrey, Swilers RFC, St. John’s, N.L.; Jon Phelan, Lille Metropole Rugby (France), Montreal; Mike Scholz, Castaway Wanderers, Oakville, Ont.; Andrew Tiedemann, Castaway Wanderers, St. Albert, Alta.; Conor Trainor, UBCOB Ravens, Vancouver; Liam Underwood, Queens University, Toronto; Doug Wooldridge, Lindsay RFC, Lindsay, Ont.
New Zealand Maori All Blacks
Ben Afeaki, North Harbour; Kurt Baker, Taranaki; Nick Barrett, Southland; Tim Bateman (capt.), Wellington; Luke Braid, Auckland; Shane Christie, Tasman; Elliot Dixon, Southland; Hika Elliott, Manukau; Chris Eves, Manawatu; Corey Flynn, Canterbury; Jamison Gibson-Park, Taranaki; Zac Guildford, Hawke’s Bay; Kane Hames, Bay of Plenty; Jarrad Hoeata, Taranaki; Luke Katene, Canterbury; Charlie Ngatai, Wellington; Matt Proctor, Welliington; Robbie Robinson, Southland; Joe Royal, Bay of Plenty; Liam Squire, Tasman; Andre Taylor, Taranaki; Blade Thomson, Taranaki; Piri Weepu, Auckland; Ihaia West, Hawke’s Bay; Joe Wheeler, Tasman; Jackson Willison, Waikato.
Coach: Colin Cooper