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Another step forward for Toeava

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Friday, October 15, 2010    NZPA    Getty Images

Another compelling performance by the versatile outside back against Otago at Eden Park on Sunday could see Toeava included in the All Blacks' end of year tour squad which is named shortly after fulltime.

Toeava, who returned to rugby last weekend for the first time since the Super 14 ended in May, has relegated Winston Stanley to the bench for Auckland's must-win 12th round clash against the bottom-placed southerners.

He starts at centre after showing no ill effects from his post Super 14 hip surgery, one of five changes coach Mark Anscombe has made to the side that finished strongly to win 37-13 in Pukekohe and keep the fourth-placed Aucklanders semifinals hopes alive with two rounds remaining.

All Blacks prop - and potential back-up hooker - John Afoa returns to the front row after his experimental run at No 2 for the development side last weekend in place of Tom McCartney while flanker Onosa'i Auva'a replaces Jerome Kaino, who made a one-game guest appearance last weekend before being diverted to All Black promotional duties in Melbourne.

In the backs, Toby Morland resumes his starting role at halfback in place of Brenton Helleur, and experienced fullback Brent Ward replaces Chay Raui.

With only three points covering places four to seven, Anscombe realises Auckland cannot afford to slip up against a side that has not won at Eden Park since 1976, before they round out their regular season against another also-ran Tasman next weekend.

"We've got to win, it doesn't matter who we're playing and where they are on the competition ladder, the fact is that if we don't win our last two games we will not be in the semifinals," he said.

"We saw what happened last night with Waikato scoring on fulltime (against Manawatu). If they'd lost that game that would have been their semifinal chances gone and we're in the same situation."
Otago are already doomed to play in the second tier Championship next season, but Anscombe insisted they could not be taken lightly.

"Sometimes when they haven't got anything to play for, teams find these things to give them motivation to get over the line and to be the first team to come to Eden Park and win in 34 years would salvage something for the union."