The best players from Pink Batts Heartland Championship have been named in the Heartland XV to play three matches, including two in the Cook Islands, by Head Coach Kurt McQuilkin today.
The 24-strong squad will play New Zealand Marist XV on 8 November before departing for two matches against Cook Islands on 11 and 14 of November.
Mid-Canterbury and Buller are well-represented with six and five players respectively, Wanganui and Wairarapa Bush each have three players in the squad. Meanwhile, King Country and Poverty Bay have two each, and North Otago, Horowhenua-Kapiti and South Canterbury each have a player representing their province.
McQuilkin (King Country) said the 2014 Heartland XV squad showcases the depth of talent in New Zealand.
“These men are fiercely proud to play for their club and fiercely proud to play for their province. To pull on the black jersey for Heartland XV squad is a major honour for them and something they aspire to during the season.
“We had a large pool of very talented players to choose from so we’ll be putting up a very strong side for the upcoming series.
He said the team expected the Cook Island side to be competitive.
“We’re expecting our games in the Cook Islands to be hard and fast and we’ll be playing in hot and sticky conditions. It will make for some exciting rugby.”
New Zealand Rugby Chairman Brent Impey said the Heartland XV is proof of New Zealand’s wealth of rugby talent.
“These players fit in their training around their full time work and other commitments because they love the game, representing their province and now their country.
“It’s important to New Zealand Rugby that we support rugby in the Pacific and playing in the Cook Islands is part of that. The Heartland XV will be fantastic rugby ambassadors for New Zealand,” he said.
The 2014 Heartland XV squad is:
Hookers: Jon Sharpe (Mid Canterbury), Cole Baldwin (Wanganui)
Props: Logan Mundy (Buller), Timaru Tafa (South Canterbury), Carl Carmichael (King Country)
Locks: Andrew Smith (Mid Canterbury), Andrew McLean (Wairarapa Bush), Craig Moore (Buller)
Loose Forwards: Peter Rowe (Wanganui), Gary Redmond (Mid Canterbury), Josh Clark (North Otago), Jon Dampney (Mid Canterbury), Lasa Ulukuta (Wanganui)
Halfbacks: Andrew Stephens (Buller), Jake Ashby (Mid Canterbury)
First five-eighths: James Lash (Buller), Whakataki Cunningham (King Country)
Mid fielders: Peni Nabainivalu (Buller), Ethine Reeves (Poverty Bay), TK Moeke (Poverty Bay)
Outside backs: Brenton Connell (Mid Canterbury), Nathan Hunt (Wairarapa Bush), Michael Tambour (Horowhenua-Kapiti), Sam Monaghan (Wairarapa Bush)