Harlequins v Maori All Blacks Preview
The Twickenham Stoop will tonight play host to some special visitors as the Maori All Blacks play Harlequins for the first time since 1926.
The game, organised as part of Harlequins’ 150th anniversary celebrations, will wrap up the Maori All Blacks' northern hemisphere tour.
Harlequins have won five of their last six games in all competitions after a 15-12 victory away at the Ospreys in the Anglo-Welsh Cup last Friday.
The Maori All Blacks, however, lost 27-14 to Munster in an emotionally-charged game and will be looking for revenge to finish their tour on a positive note.
Harlequins have named a team with a blend of youth and experience. Former Wales and British & Irish Lions international Adam Jones captains the side, whilst ex-Samoa international Dan Leo makes a guest appearance at flanker.
Alongside these older heads are some exciting academy players including scrum half Charlie Mulchrone and Sam Aspland-Robinson on the wing.
Meanwhile, Maori coach Colin Cooper has backed experience in his line-up, as capped All Blacks Kane Hames and Brad Weber both make starts.
Akira Ioane saw his 19 year old brother Rieko make the grade jump from Maori to full All Black side against Italy last week, and he joins Super Rugby stars Tim Bateman and Ihaia West in an exciting team.
Former All-Black Nick Evans is not named in the Harlequins line-up and may be more interested in catching up with former team-mate Tana Umaga, now a member of the Maori coaching staff.
Evans will also be relieved to be free of burden when the All Blacks perform the haka.
Fellow countryman Doug Howlett set a remarkable precedent when he and several other Munster team-mates performed a haka back at the All Blacks in 2008.
Several of Evans team-mates have given him some stick about producing a similar response on Wednesday night.
But Evans has vehemently denied he would be performing a haka in Harlequins colours:
"When I performed the Haka I was normally at the back trying to look scary. The Haka is a big thing for the All Blacks and the Maori have got their own as well, there's lots of different meanings about bringing strength from the ancestors and people who have worn the jersey before and that's the same for the Maoris as well.
"Guys that have got a lot of pride or 'Mana' as we call it in New Zealand have worn that jersey. It's a great thing to get you motivated. For us to stand there and watch it will be fantastic as well.
"There's no chance I'm doing it back, so don't worry about that- it's not going to happen.""There's no chance I'm doing it back, so don't worry about that- it's not going to happen.”
Either way, the chance to see the Maori All Blacks perform at the Stoop is going to be one worth remembering, and the Kiwi side will undoubtedly look to avenge the 11-5 scoreline from 90 years ago.
Harlequins: Ruaridh Jackson; Sam Aspland-Robinson, Gabriel Ibitoye, Henry Cheeseman, Jonas Mikalcius; Tim Swiel, Charlie Mulchrone; Dan Murphy, Joe Gray, Adam Jones (c); Mark Reddish, Stan South; Dan Leo (Guest), Archie White, George Naoupu
Replacements: Charlie Piper, Owen Evans, Matt Shields, Bill Harding (Guest), Alex Bradley (Guest), Luc Jones, Luke Peters (Guest), Alofa Alofa
New Zealand Maoris: James Lowe; Ambrose Curtis, Matt Proctor, Tim Bateman, Sean Wainui; Ihaia West, Brad Weber; Kane Hames, Ash Dixon (c), Ben May; Leighton Price, Tom Franklin; Whetu Douglas, Shane Christie, Akira Ioane
Replacements: Joe Royal, Chris Eves, Marcel Renata, Jacob Skeen, Reed Prinsep, Billy Guyton, Otere Black, Jason Emery/Marty McKenzie
Harlequins v Maori All Blacks, Wednesday 16th November, 19:45