Head coach Nigel Walsh has named his New Zealand Heartland XV squad which features 11 potential debutants to don the black jersey.
The 23-man squad comprises of the best players from across the country rewarded for their standout performances in the 2023 Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship competition.
Walsh confirmed his squad following the Heartland finals last weekend which saw South Canterbury win the Meads Cup for a third consecutive year over Whanganui (40-30), and West Coast secure the Lochore Cup in a nailbiter against Poverty Bay (23-20).
Among the debutants are Meads Cup winners Connor Anderson, Finlay Joyce and Sam Briggs. Whanganui’s Peceli Malanicagi, Peter-Travis Hay-Horton and Douglas Horrocks were also named.
Walsh said there was a thorough process during player selections and was impressed with each individual throughout the season.
“Every player listed stood out during the Heartland competition and I’ve got a good mix of experience across the board. I’m pleased to have Sam Briggs and Dane Whale as part of the campaign who will be key game drivers for our team,” Walsh said.
Douglas will join his cousin Lindsay Horrocks who has made nine appearances in the Heartland XV jersey, the same amount of times as returning veteran William Wright.
“It’s invaluable to have Lindsay and William onboard as they know what’s expected when we get into a camp like this. They’re good leaders and have a lot of mana (respect) from players and coaches around them. They’ve been in and around the Heartland scene for a long time now and have proven their worth which is why they’ve been selected,” Walsh said.
The Heartland XV will play in a two-match campaign against Canterbury Development on November 1 and the New Zealand Barbarians on November 4. Both matches will be streamed live on New Zealand Rugby.
The Canterbury Development and New Zealand Barbarians will announce their squads at a later date.
New Zealand Heartland XV squad 2023:
Adam Williamson (Mid Canterbury)
Connor Anderson* (South Canterbury)
Dane Whale (Whanganui)
Douglas Horrocks* (Whanganui)
Finlay Joyce* (South Canterbury)
Fletcher Morgan* (Thames Valley)
Joshua Clark (North Otago)
Junior Fakatoufifita (North Otago)
Kaleb Foote (King Country)
Keanu Taumata* (Poverty Bay)
Leopino Maupese* (Buller)
Lindsay Horrocks (Whanganui)
Paula Fifita (South Canterbury)
Peceli Malanicagi* (Whanganui)
Peter-Travis Hay-Horton* (Whanganui)
Renata Roberts-Te Nana* (East Coast)
Saimone Samate (North Otago)
Sam Briggs* (South Canterbury)
Shayne Anderson* (West Coast)
Tokoma’ata Fakatava (South Canterbury)
Tyler Kearns (West Coast)
Vaka Taelega (South Canterbury)
William Wright (South Canterbury)
Head Coach | Nigel Walsh (South Canterbury)
Assistant Coach | Miah Nikora (Poverty Bay)
Team Manager | Thomas Zimmerman (Horowhenua-Kapiti)
Observer Coach | Jason Forrest (North Otago)
Physiotherapist | Geoff Thompson (South Canterbury)
Trainer | Slade King (Rotorua)
Doctor | Coll Campbell (Poverty Bay)
New Zealand Heartland XV Schedule:
New Zealand Heartland XV v Canterbury Development
Wednesday, November 1 (4.00pm kick-off)
Methven Rugby Club, Methven
New Zealand Heartland XV v NZ Barbarians (2.00pm kick-off)
Saturday, November 4
Whitestone Contracting Stadium, Oamaru