Squad revealed for NZ Marist XV
New Zealand Marist coach Shaun Breen is happy with his squad to take on the New Zealand Heartland team despite some last minute scrambling.
Breen had to wait until the Heartland side was announced on Wednesday night as the Heartland side had first pick of players for the game in Timaru on Saturday.
A number of pencilled in players on the Marist ledger were snapped up by Heartland coach Barry Matthews, including their proposed inside back combination.
Each Marist affiliated club across the country nominates three players and in the case of Timaru Celtic all three nominees, halfback Willie Wright, prop Matt Fetu and openside Nick Strachan, made the NZ Heartland squad. West Coast first five Tom Reekie and Mid Canterbury’s Jared Percival were in the same situation depriving Marist of two first choice 10s.
Breen said that was just the way things were. ‘‘We had 60 nominations so we just went back and looked at them and I am happy with what we have.’’
Despite the defections NZ Marist side looks to have plenty of depth to challenge the Heartland Championship’s best. It includes two players who have represented Hawke’s Bay this season in Hasting’s hooker Jacob Devery and Napier halfback Scot Donaldson.
Second five James Hawkey has also turned out for Tasman in the Mitre 10 Cup, while another former Timaru Celtic player and South Canterbury representative Sam Vea, also made the cut.
The side also features Whangarei’s utility back Renata Tenana, son of former New Zealand seven’s star Karl Tenana. Tenana junior produced one of the great club fullback performances to lead Old Boys Marist to back-to-back premiership titles in the Northland competition.
Breen said it should be an entertaining game with plenty of good match-ups. Breen and cocoach Nigel Walsh were appointed to the Marist coaching roles in part to honour Timaru Celtic’s record breaking run of nine successive Hamersley Cup club titles. The game will played at Alpine Energy Stadium, with Heartland XV looking to defend the McRae Cup, which is played for on an annual basis between the two sides.