A Taranaki Maori rugby side has been selected after several years on the sideline.
Corporate sponsorship from Shell Todd Oil Services will allow a squad to compete at this weekend's Central Region Te Tini a Maui tournament at Palmerston North under coach Toka Kevin Walden.
The former championship winning club coach has been off the scene for a couple of years but the chance to return to the sidelines proved too tempting.
"It has been a little bit of a journey but we are really keen to revitalise Maori rugby within Taranaki," he said.
"I've had a second year off from coaching and I still have the bug to coach, so I thought I would turn my energy into Maori Rugby and try and give it a bit more exposure."
It has been three years since a Taranaki Maori side played, with funding the squad always an issue.
Walden felt strongly that there needed to be another pathway available for Maori players not involved in Super Rugby or the national provincial championship.
The Te Tini a Maui tournament will feature sides from Wellington, East Coast, Manawatu, Poverty Bay, Whanganui, Horowhenua-Kapiti, Wairarapa Bush and Hawke's Bay.
If the players do well down there then they can be selected in a Central Maori side to go and play in a tournament in Christchurch the following week against the South Island and Northern Maori.
"I think it's quite exciting in terms of a pathway for the players," Walden said.
He has worked with Taranaki Rugby Football Union high performance manager Jono Phillips to identify the best Maori players available, while clubs had also been approached to nominate individuals.
Of those selected in the squad, several have already played for Taranaki in the NPC, including Adrian Wyrill, Daniel Brooks, Timo Tutavaha, Codey Rei and Nathan Hohaia.
"The players who I have spoken to are really excited to have this opportunity," Walden said.
The squad will head south on the back of limited preparation, with one training scheduled tonight at Yarrow Stadium.
However, Walden was not concerned.
"A lot of the guys are together in the academy and a few like Brooks have been in the sevens squad, while the clubs have been doing pre-season training. We are thinking, with the calibre of players we have, it shouldn't take too much to get up to speed and we could cause a few upsets."
This weekend's tournament will be broken up into pools, although Taranaki do not know who they will face as yet.
TARANAKI MAORI: Matthew Tupa, Conan Houkamau, Micaiah Torrance-Read, Cody Mason, Lachlan Boshier, Jesse Parete, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Izaak Wilson, Sean Wainui, Cruz Pene, Lewis Ormond, Adrian Wyrill, Daniel McKerrow, Daniel Brooks, Jon Smyth, Timo Tutavaha, Leighton Price, Oti Wilson, Telly Hemopo, Pomare Samupo, Adam White, Te Waiti Mareikura, Brad Cooper, Hamuera Baker, Chris Black, Matiu Welch, Dan Dreaver, Jordan Millar-Rose, Zac Taitoko, Byron McDermott, Matthew Waaka, Paul Hooper, Mark Davis, Codey Rei, Chad Niwa, Jerem Wichman, Ian Austin, Fabian Rupapera, Trent Pickering, Nathan Hohaia, Isaac Hekenui, Andrew Jacobson.
- Taranaki Daily News
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