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Preview: Taranaki v Auckland

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Friday, September 6, 2013    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 120; Auckland 85, Taranaki 26, drawn 9.
LAST TIME: September 19, 2012 (Auckland) – Auckland 42-32 Taranaki

MISSING IN ACTION: Injuries have robbed Taranaki of one of their more dynamic players and a reliable prop, two components to any successful side. Andre Taylor's shoulder injury sees him out of Saturday's game, where he will be joined by Shane Cleaver (head).

Auckland coach Wayne Pivac has made five changes to the starting XV. Props Sam Prattley, Angus Ta'avao, Luke Braid, Piri Weepu and Vince Aso all coming into the starting side while Orene Ai'i could mark his first game for Auckland in eight years if he comes from the bench.

FORM: Taranaki were given a rough opening two rounds. Nobody wants to play Canterbury and Wellington in their opening two rounds but they bounced back with a tight win over Southland to register their first win of the season.

Auckland, meanwhile, are unbeaten and sitting pretty with four wins. While they haven't won any of their matches convincingly – their latest result was a 22-20 win over Counties Manukau – they will be confident of winning matches despite not playing their best rugby.

WE THINK:
Auckland are due for a big win and have been bubbling away throughout the competition. Much of the battle will be around the forwards' effectiveness over a relatively fresh Auckland forward pack.

Taranaki coach Colin Cooper has indicated his side are set to look for a fast start to heap pressure on early. If they're able to score a couple of early tries then Pivac's men will have to work hard to secure the result.

With home advantage also in favour of Taranaki, we could be set for an upset – that's what we're tipping, anyway. Taranaki by 2.

TEAMS:
Taranaki:
1. Carl Carmichael, 2. Rhys Marshall, 3. Ryan Cocker, 4. Jarrad Hoeata, 5. James Broadhurst, 6. Kane Barrett (c), 7. Doug Tietjens, 8. Blade Thomson, 9. Chris Smylie, 10. Daniel Brooks, 11. Waisake Naholo, 12. Isaia Tuifua, 13. Seta Tamanivalu, 14. Jackson Ormond, 15. Kurt Baker.

Substitutes: 16. Timo Tutavaha, 17. Sione Lea, 18. Mitchell Crosswell, 19. Berny Hall, 20. Jamison Gibson-Park, 21. Rick McKenna, 22. Ope Peleseuma.

Auckland:
1. Sam Prattley, 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 (c), 13. Malakai Fekitoa, 14. Vince Aso, 15. Lolagi Visinia.

Substitutes: 16. Gafatasi Su'a, 17. Pauliasi Manu, 18. Jack Whetton, 19. Sean Polwart, 20. Wayne Ngaluafe, 21. Orene Ai'i, 22. Saleaula Silipa.