Crosswell 'hugely excited'
Manawatu captain Nick Crosswell joins a select group in being named as a New Zealand Maori to tour England.
When he pulls on the black jersey he will be only the 18th from the province to be a Maori All Black.
The first were 102 years ago when two players from the Foxton sub-union were in the first NZ Maori team which toured Australia.
All Black Aaron Smith was the most recent, against England and Ireland at Napier in 2010. Smith is of Ngati Kahungunu descent.
Crosswell might have been a contender for that team but injured his knee in his final Hurricanes match at Sydney.
The only other Turbo to wear the Maori jersey has been lock Hayden Triggs in 2007 (also Ngati Kahungunu). That team also went to England for a three-match tour, as will this year's, and will again play Canada for whom former Manawatu B lock Chris Long has been picked.
Crosswell acknowledged the long history of the team and said when he pulls on the jersey, it will be a proud moment.
"To be honest, it was always a team I've aspired to be in," he said.
Like the rest of the country, he discovered he was in the team when he read it online yesterday.
He had earlier been asked to provide information for the selectors, but never considered himself a certainty.
"There are a lot of good Maori locks and loose forwards," he said. "You never know what split they're going to take, so I had to sit and wait.
"Look at the names in the side. It is a very strong side and to have my name alongside them is hugely exciting."
Coaching the team will be Jamie Joseph, Crosswell's coach at the Highlanders until this year, when he signed with the Chiefs.
Crosswell's whakapapa is Ngati Porou from the East Coast and is from his father Peter's side of the family.
His grandmother is buried there and the family has links to two marae, Hiruharama (Jerusalem) and Te Aowera, both at Ruatoria.
Crosswell has worn the black jersey with NZ Schools (to Fiji and Christchurch) in 2004, NZ under-19s to South Africa in 2005 and NZ under-21s against Canada at Rotorua in 2007.
Illustrious Counties coach Hiwi Tauroa, later the race relations conciliator, was a Maori All Black, Bevan Jones captained the team, and Rangi Akuira later died in a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy in 1942 during World War II.
Former Manawatu players Jason Eaton, Andre Taylor and Kurt Baker are in the team; Eaton's descent is from the Rangitikei tribe, Ngati Apa.
Only one first five-eighth has been picked and that is Willie Ripia who returned home in disgrace from the Western Force in January after allegedly stealing from team-mates. He has had counselling for gambling addiction and this season played for the Bay of Plenty development XV.
The Maori team assembles in Auckland on Saturday and leaves for England on Tuesday.
2012 NZ MAORI SQUAD
Halfbacks: Jamison Gibson-Park (Ngati Porou/Nga Tai, Taranaki), Frae Wilson (Ngati Rangi/Te Ati Awa, Wellington)
First five-eighth: Willie Ripia (Ngai Tuhoe, Bay of Plenty)
Midfield backs: Tim Bateman(Ngai Tahu, Wellington), Jackson Willison (Ngati Mahuta, Waikato), Charles Ngatai (Ngati Porou/Te Whanau-a-Apanui, Wellington)
Outside backs: Declan O'Donnell (Ngati Tuwharetoa/Ngati Porou, Waikato), Andre Taylor (Ngati Tuwharetoa/Ngati Kahungunu, Taranaki), Kurt Baker (Ngapuhi, Taranaki), Trent Renata (Ngati Maru, Waikato), Kade Poki (Te Ati Awa, Southland)
Hookers: Hika Elliot (Ngati Awa, Hawke's Bay), Quentin MacDonald (Rangitane, Tasman)
Props: Ben May (Ngati Maniapoto, Waikato), Bronson Murray (Ngapuhi, Bay of Plenty), Ben Afeaki (Ngati Awa, North Harbour), Jacob Ellison (Ngati Porou, Otago)
Locks: Jarrad Hoeata (Ngati Kahungunu, Taranaki), Jason Eaton (Ngati Apa, Taranaki), Romana Graham (Ngati Awa, Waikato), Ross Filipo (Muaupoko, Wellington)
Loose forwards: Nick Crosswell (Ngati Porou, Manawatu), Tanerau Latimer (capt, Te Arawa, Bay of Plenty), Elliot Dixon (Ngapuhi, Southland), Karl Lowe (Ngati Kahungunu, Hawke's Bay), Shane Christie (Ngati Kura, Tasman)
The team plays Leicester Tigers, an RFU Championship team and Canada.