Preview: Canterbury v Taranaki

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Friday, August 19, 2011    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Rugby Park, Christchurch, Saturday August 20 @ 1235 HEAD TO HEAD: Played 57; Canterbury 41, Taranaki 14, drawn 2. LAST TIME: September 18, 2010 (New Plymouth) – Taranaki 31-20 Canterbury. WALKING WOUNDED: Sean Maitland makes a welcome return from an ankle injury to resume at fullback for Canterbury, while Corey Flynn should see some game time off the bench after being released by the All Blacks. Taranaki has lost George Pisi and Mahonri Schwalger to Samoa's World Cup squad and was sweating on reports about Andre Taylor, who was taken to hospital straight after starring in the win over Tasman although early diagnosis suggested the injury was not as bad as was first feared. Still, the blow he took on the kidneys will rule him out of this match. Beauden Barrett has recovered from a wrist injury to play, but a banged-up Tyson Keats will start from the bench. Otherwise Colin Cooper kept his changes to a minimum. FORM: Canterbury: Round 3: lost to Wellington 28-37 (a) Round 4: beat Manawatu 42-15 (h) Round 5: beat Tasman 36-32 (a) Round 6: lost to Waikato 13-27 (h) Round 7: beat Northland 28-13 (h) Taranaki: Round 3: beat Northland 23-16 (a) Round 4: beat Auckland 39-11 (h) Round 5: lost to Manawatu 10-15 (a) Round 6: beat Bay of Plenty 39-33 (h) Round 7: beat Tasman 26-23 (h) Canterbury continued its perfect run against Championship teams last weekend, securing all five points against Northland to make it 15 from three games. It's the one win from four matches against Premiership sides that will be causing concern especially as that win, over Auckland, came back in the season opener. In its last two outings against teams from the top section Canterbury has been run over both times as Waikato and Wellington posted impressive victories. As with other teams fielding large numbers of young players, Canterbury is finding that chances are not necessarily being taken and playing catch-up is often proving too tough. Taranaki has had to scrap pretty hard in each of its last two matches although it has managed to win both. Both times it needed outstanding kicking displays to get home and got them from Beauden Barrett and Andre Taylor. The Taranaki forwards are a seasoned unit who can control matches, while the backs have also been there and done that. They may not always be flashy, but they generally get things done. As one of the two sides to have five wins so far, Taranaki deserves its place near the top of the ladder. WHO'S HOT: Some of the Canterbury forward play against Northland was tight and cohesive with a couple of tries coming as a direct result. Ben Funnell made a solid first run-on appearance, doing his share of the grunt work and feeding the lineout accurately. Nasi Manu was also back to the kind of form we saw in the first couple of weeks as he carried the ball strongly and contributed plenty in the close exchanges. Willi Heinz, who has been on the bench recently, was another to make a strong statement with a good all-round game that featured clever option taking and snappy clearances. Taranaki can always look to its forwards to lay a platform and men like the unheralded Carl Carmichael can be relied upon to do that spade-work. Now well experienced, he is a strong scrummager and mauler who does not skip the hard yards for a chance to have a wee gallop in the backline. Scott Waldrom is always an influential figure in any match he plays and his work over the ball will be very important. Both teams attack well off turnovers, so if he wins a few Canterbury needs to step lively. Isaia Tuifua may have been in George Pisi's shadow this year but he has looked dangerous whenever he has played. His best effort was against Auckland, when he created all sorts of mayhem with his hard running and solid defence. WE THINK: Rare as they are – the last one came in 1962 - Taranaki has a chance to savour a win in Christchurch this week. There is a lot at stake for Taranaki, as this match is both a chance to move clear of the pack and ideal preparation for its upcoming Shield challenge. Given recent form, calling a Taranaki win is not tipping an upset, and they should have ten points or so in hand at the end. TEAMS: Canterbury: 1. Paea Fa'anunu, 2. Ben Funnell, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Luke Romano, 5. Ash Parker, 6. George Whitelock (capt), 7. Matt Todd, 8. Nasi Manu, 9. Willi Heinz, 10. Tyler Bleyendaal, 11. Patrick Osborne, 12. Ryan Crotty, 13. Robbie Fruean, 14. Johnny McNicholl, 15. Sean Maitland. Reserves: 16. Corey Flynn, 17. Joe Moody, 18. Luke Katene or Joel Everson, 19. Brendon O'Connor, 20. Mark Swanepoel, 21. Tom Taylor, 22. Telusa Veainu or Rhys Llewellyn, 23. Andrew Olorenshaw. Taranaki: 1. Carl Carmichael, 2. Laurence Corlett, 3. Michael Bent, 4. Jason Eaton, 5. Craig Clarke (capt), 6. Ben Souness, 7. Scott Waldrom, 8. Samuela Vunisa, 9. Brett Goodin, 10. Beauden Barrett, 11. Jackson Ormond, 12. Jayden Hayward, 13. Isaia Tuifua, 14. Waisake Naholo, 15. Kurt Baker. Reserves: 16. Timo Tutavaha, 17. Shane Cleaver, 18. James Broadhurst, 19. Chris Walker, 20. Tyson Keats, 21. Jack Cameron, 22. Frazer Climo, 23. Willie Ioane. REFEREE: Ben Skeen