A quartet of Tasman Mako were included in the All Black squad announcement on Sunday morning for the three-test series against France next month.
Highlanders and Marist loose forward Shannon Frizell was a surprise bolter, joining fellow Mako Jordan Taufua as debutants in the 33-man squad which also includes Liam Squire and Tim Perry.
Shannon exploded onto the national radar this season with his hat-trick against the Blues at Eden Park last month.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says Shannon’s style is similar to that of current Japanese head coach Jamie Joseph and the late Jerry Collins.
“He’s very energetic and he wants to be in your grill in a positive way with his intentions when he’s tackling and cleaning.”
Hansen says the loss of veteran Jerome Kaino left the All Blacks needing a flanker to provide positive intent when he carried, cleared rucks and tackled.
“We have to take our time developing him and see where we get to.”
Standing tall at 195cm, the 24-year-old Tongan-born loose forward moved to Nelson after signing a development contract with the Tasman Rugby Union in 2015. He represented New Zealand Marist at U19 level, and the Tasman sevens team.
Shannon’s selection brings the number of current All Blacks hailing from Marist to three.
Marist prop Kane Hames was not considered due to injury.
Club chairman Robert Evans says it is quite an extraordinary feat for any club, let alone from one of the smaller rugby regions in New Zealand, to have three current All Blacks.
“The Mako as its premium brand really punches well above its weight on the national stage and confirms to young men and women that you do not need to leave town to make the big time.” Roberts says this will give a lot of inspiration to the teenagers in the region.
“I liken Shannon’s selection to that of the great All Black winger John Kirwan in the early 80s, a virtually unknown club player one year to All Black status the next.”
Marist captain Tyler Mckinnon-Stevenson says they knew they had someone special when Shannon first arrived at Marist in 2016.
“We knew he had the talent, not just his hard work ethic, ability to break the line and create go forward for us to put points on the board but also off the field as a person, he is a great role model.”
Jordan made his Mako debut back in 2012.
All Black selector Grant Fox said he had proved time and again “he’s big enough and powerful enough, his only shortcomings being around his effectiveness in the lineout.
“It changes the balance a little bit, but we can work around that. No one is perfect and at times we’ve got to remind ourselves we’re selecting them because they do a number of other things very well, and we can work on the things they don’t.”
Born in Auckland, 26-year-old Taufua made his debut for Tasman in 2012 on loan from Canterbury, before rejoining Canterbury for their ITM Cup Premiership success in 2013.
He then moved back north for the 2014 season with Counties Manukau, starting every game in his first season with the Pukekohe side, before returning to Tasman for the 2017 season.
Tasman Rugby Union CEO Tony Lewis says the selection of four Mako players, including prop Tim Perry, is fantastic news for the region.
Tony says Jordan’s selection is reward for being week in week out one of the best players in the country.
“He never gives you a bad performance and is a leader in everything he does.”
Tony says Shannon just has that x-factor that the All Blacks covet. “He’s a big human being and he’s fast, powerful, can pass and run.”
The All Blacks kick off their 2018 campaign against the French at Eden Park on June 9.