Preview: Canterbury v Counties Manukau
Friday, October 4, 2013 Matt Manukia Getty Images
WALKING WOUNDED: Injuries to Joe Moody (foot) and Matt Symons (shoulder) allow Paea Fa'anunu and Luke Katene to enter the starting lineuup at loosehead and lock respectively. Corey Flynn is promoted to starting hooker at the expense of Ben Funnell, while Jordan Taufua edges Nasi Manu for the No 8 jersey.
In the backs, Andy Ellis will pick up the vice-captaincy and starting halfback spot, and Tyler Bleyendaal has recovered from the head knock to start at first-five.
Meanwhile, Counties coach Tana Umaga has given no less than 12 of his starters the week off to recover from a demanding month of rugby.
The wholesale changes mean just two of last week's starting XV - Toni Pulu & Kane Hancy - remain while four debutants have been called upon to step up to the plate.
FORM: Canterbury's 72-7 thrashing of Manawatu was bookended by disappointing losses to Wellington and Auckland.
The defending champions were never really in the contest at Eden Park last week and trailed 32-7 at the break before conceding a further try in the second half.
It was almost as if tackling was optional for a number of players and coach Scott Roberston has demanded more commitment as they look to secure a home semifinal.
Counties Manukau have enjoyed a whirlwind month, during which the Ranfurly Shield was secured for the first time, and successfully defended against Taranaki and Waikato.
However, a last gasp win against the lowly Bay of Plenty suggests the men from Pukekohe may be starting the feel the pinch and are in need of a serious energy boost as they eye a spot in the premiership semifinals.
WE THINK: With an eye on securing the Ranfurly Shield for the summer, coach Umaga is reserving his stars for one last defence against Southland next week. It doesn't help their push to the finals, but with Waikato trailing by 11 points in fifth place, there's a good chance Counties will get to have their cake and eat it too.
A number of Counties players will be celebrating a rare start this Sunday but it's unlikely to be a game they'll want to remember.
Canterbury by 20.
Canterbury: 1. Paea Fa'anunu, 2. Corey Flynn, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Joel Everson, 5. Joel Everton, 6. Luke Whitelock, 7. George Whitelock (c), 8. Jordan Taufua, 9. Andy Ellis, 10. Tyler Bleyendaal, 11. Milford Keresoma, 12. Ryan Crotty, 13. Adam Whitelock, 14. Patrick Osborne, 15. Johnny McNicholl.
Reserves: 16. Ben Funnell, 17. Sione Faletau, 18. Nasi Manu, 19. Jed Brown, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Rob Thompson, 22. Richie Mo'unga.
Counties Manukau: 1. Sam Aiono, 2. Suliasi Taufalele, 3. Matt Talaese, 4. Ryan Wilson, 5. Sikeli Nabou, 6. Johnnu Kawau, 7. Sean Reidy, 8. Mark Selwyn (c), 9. Kane Hancy, 10. Ki Anufe, 11. Sione Molia, 12. Tyrone Lefau, 13. Sam Vaka, 14. Lolohea Loco, 15. Toni Pulu.
Reserves: 16. Mark Price, 17. Attila Va'a, 18. Richard Mariota, 19. Seluini Molia, 20. Lucky Palamo, 21. Ahsee Tuala, 22. Bundee Aki.
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