Joseph springs selection surprises for Canada test
Form does not appear to be an over-riding factor in coach Jamie Joseph's selection ahead of the last game of the New Zealand Maori tour against Canada this morning.
Taranaki halfback Jamison Gibson-Park was a shining light in the touring side's 52-21 win over the English Championship XV last weekend but has been benched in favour of Wellington No 9 Frae Wilson.
Gibson-Park was instrumental in setting up several tries and his service to former Taranaki pivot Willie Ripia was also more than acceptable.
Wilson started when the Maori lost their opening tour match 32-24 to Leicester and Joseph might be conscious of over-loading Gibson-Park.
The news was not much better for two former All Blacks - Hika Elliot and Taranaki's Jarrad Hoeata - who will also have to bide their time from the bench as Joseph has opted to start Quentin Macdonald and Romana Graham respectively.
Another former All Black, Taranaki lock Jason Eaton, will start after he was a sub in the Championship XV match.
Joseph has also sprung a bit of a surprise in his selection, opting to start Trent Renata at fullback and shift Andre Taylor to the wing where he will partner fellow Taranaki rep Kurt Baker.
Taylor has been starved of time in the No 15 jersey since his impressive season with the Hurricanes.
The decision to start Taylor and Baker means in-form wing Declan O'Donnell, one of the players of the brief three-match tour, will also start from the bench.
Given how much talent Joseph has at his disposal on the bench, it will be no surprise to see the sub cards coming out early in a match the Maori should start favourite.
They have won all three previous encounters with Canada, the last in 2007 when the New Zealand side prevailed 59-23.
Canada, under the guidance of former Taranaki coach Kieran Crowley, have had a mixed time of it since the Rugby World Cup but found some form last week, thrashing Russia 35-3. Canada manager and former national rep Gareth Rees said they had been studying the first two games of the Maori tour in great detail.
"The Maori are obviously a very good side going forward," he said. "Any mistakes you give them, they will punish you."
Kick-off today is 8.30am (NZ time). The match is televised on Sky Sport.
Maori All Blacks: Trent Renata, Kurt Baker, Charlie Ngatai, Tim Bateman, Andre Taylor, Willie Ripia, Frae Wilson, Elliot Dixon, Tanerau Latimer (captain), Shane Christie, Romana Graham, Jason Eaton, Ben May, Quentin Macdonald, Bronson Murray. Reserves, Hika Elliot, Jacob Ellison, Ben Afeaki, Jarrad Hoeata, Nick Croswell, Jamison Gibson-Park, Jackson Willison, Declan O'Donnell.
Canada: James Pritchard, Jeff Hassler, Ciaran Hearn, Phil Mackenzie, Taylor Paris, Connor Braid, Phil Mack, Aaron Carpenter, Chauncey O'Toole, Tyler Ardon, Tyler Hotson, Jebb Sinclair, Jason Marshall, Ryan Hamilton, Hubert Buydens. Reserves, Andrew Tiedemann, Ray Barkwill, Doug Wooldridge, Brett Beukeboom, John Moonlight, Eric Wilson, Nathan Hirayama, Sean Duke.
Taranaki Daily News