Preview: Auckland v North Harbour

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Friday, August 16, 2013    Getty Images

LAST TIME: Auckland 36 beat North Harbour 16, 2012 at Albany.

WALKING WOUNDED: Unavailable for the Auckland side are Gareth Anscombe after shoulder surgery, Ben Lam with a foot injury and Albert Nikoro with an ACL injury. And from last year Daniel Braid, Nathan Hughes, Dave Thomas and Alby Mathewson are out of consideration while Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua are on All Blacks duty. North Harbour are missing: Luke Devcich, Sam Hayes-Stevenson, Michael Hobbs, Manu Leiataua, Salesi Manu, Apisalome Taruniyarawa and Rudi Wulf. On the plus side they have picked up Tua Saseve from Hawke's Bay and Greg Pleasants-Tate from Bay of Plenty.

FORM: In Auckland's warm-up games they beat Northland 37-26 but lost to Hawke's Bay 32-33. North Harbour had some encouraging results in pre-season games with a 19-13 win over Bay of Plenty and a 12-12 draw with Waikato.

WE THINK: North Harbour have so much ground to make up from a woeful season they could hardly have picked a tougher encounter with which to start their attempted recovery this year. Auckland look strong again with everything to play for on their home patch. It is a daunting task for North Harbour and they don't appear to have the quality of potential that Auckland have mustered. Auckland by 10.

Auckland: 1.Sam Prattley, 2.Tom McCartney, 3.Angus Ta'avao, 4.Liaki Moli, 5.Patrick Tuipulotu, 6.Joe Edwards, 7.Luke Braid, 8.Peter Saili, 9.Piri Weepu, 10.Simon Hickey, 11.Tenina Sauileoge, 12.Hadleigh Parkes, 13.Malakai Fekitoa, 14.George Moala, 15.Lolagi Visinia.

Replacements: 16.Nathan Vella, 17.Pauliasi Manu, 18.Sean Brookman, 19.Sean Polwart, 20.Wayne Ngaluafe, 21.Vince Aso, 22.Saleaula Silipa.

North Harbour: 1.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 2.James Parsons, 3.Ropate Rinakama, 4.Chris Smith, 5.Josh Olsen, 6.Jordan Manihera, 7.Zak Judge, 8.Viliami Fihaki, 9.Brenton Helleur, 10.Jon Elrick, 11.David Raikuna, 12.Tua Saseve, 13.Pita Ahki, 14.Jona Tuitoga, 15.Codey Rei.

Replacements: 16. Raymond Niuia, 17.Alex Woonton, 18.Brandon Nansen, 19.Scott Uren, 20.Bryn Hall, 21.Nafi Tuitavake, 22.James Semple.

Referee: Sheldon Eden Whaitiri