ANZ Pacific Nations Cup
People from the Islands live near the ocean and have a natural sense of smelling weather before it arrives. This talent comes from the older fisherman and right now there is a feeling in the air of cyclone-like power. This time it won’t be 200-knot winds and rain coming, but a cyclone powered Junior All Blacks team coming to Fiji for the ANZ Pacific Nations Cup.
Made up of ex All Backs, future All Blacks, super 14 sensations, NZ age group representatives and talented fit machines; this team is destined to set the ANZ Pacific Nations Cup alight. In what seems like severe name dropping we have people like Victor Vito, returning from Europe is Luke McAlister & try scoring weapon Lelia Masaga from the Chiefs are just a few of this star studded side.
Known as the Junior All Blacks, this is the only thing that is junior about them, international teams around the world would desire most of this team in their run on side. They start their campaign off in Apia Park- Samoa, on June 12th. In front of a full house of cheering Islanders the best of Samoa will be the first to feel the brunt. In what will be a blender of talent the Junior All Blacks will play alongside Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Japan in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup tournament, which takes place from 12 June to 3 July. The tournament moves to Fiji for a 17-day festival of international rugby spread across three match venues – the National Stadium (Suva), Churchill Park (Lautoka) and Lawaqa Park (Sigatoka).
All Blacks coach Graham Henry and his assistant coaches Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen have announced a 26-man Junior All Blacks squad.
Ryan Crotty - Canterbury
Israel Dagg - Hawke’s Bay
Aled de Malmanche - Waikato
Tom Donnelly - Otago
Jason Eaton - Taranaki
Hikawera Elliot - Hawke’s Bay
Jacob Ellison - Wellington
Tamati Ellison - Wellington
Bryn Evans - Hawke’s Bay
Ben Franks Tasman
Owen Franks - Canterbury
Robert Fruean - Wellington
Hosea Gear - Wellington
Sione Lauaki - Waikato
Karl Lowe - Hawke's Bay
Luke McAlister - North Harbour
Jamie Mackintosh - Southland
Lelia Masaga - Counties Manukau
Alby Mathewson - Wellington
Rene Ranger - Northland
Colin Slade - Canterbury
Chris Smylie - North Harbour
Jeremy Thrush - Wellington
Anthony Tuitavake - North Harbour
George Whitelock - Canterbury
Victor Vito - Wellington
Meanwhile, Hurricanes and Wellington prop John Schwalger and Chiefs and Taranaki lock Craig Clarke will assemble with the Junior All Blacks as cover for Bryn Evans and Owen Franks who are assembling with the All Blacks.
One feature of the squad is the inclusion of two sets of brothers: Owen Franks and older brother Ben and Jacob Ellison and older brother Tamati.
Junior All Blacks co-coach Colin Cooper said: “We have got a talented squad of established international players plus up and coming players and (fellow Junior All Blacks co-coach) Ian Foster and I are excited about the campaign ahead.”
“The Junior All Blacks have a proud unbeaten record in the Pacific Nations Cup and this year’s team will be keen to maintain that record,” he added.
As New Zealand’s second national team behind the All Blacks, the Junior All Blacks are a key part of the NZRU’s High Performance Plan. The team gives more New Zealand players experience of international rugby and prepares players in season to step up to the next level if injury or form forces changes to the All Blacks squad.
The Junior All Blacks matches in the ANZ Pacific Nations Cup tournament are as follows:
12 June v Samoa in Apia, 4.00pm
18 June v Fiji in Lautoka, 3.10pm
23 June v Japan in Lautoka, 3.10pm
2 July v Tonga in Suva, 3.10pm