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Preview: Canterbury v Auckland

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Thursday, October 17, 2013    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 94, Canterbury 42, Auckland 47

LAST TIME: Canterbury 19 lost to Auckland 39, Round 8, 2013 at Eden Park

WALKING WOUNDED: Andy Ellis has recovered from the shoulder dislocation he suffered against North Harbour so will start at halfback for Canterbury. Dominic Bird returns to the bench as lock after recovering from a ruptured pectoral at the end of the Super Rugby campaign. Hooker Corey Flynn has a neck injury and is replaced by Ben Funnell. Auckland have Sam Prattley back in the front after a boil forced him out of the Otago game at a late stage. Luke Braid returns as openside flanker while wing Vince Aso is back from a hamstring strain.

FORM: Since their loss to Auckland in round eight, Canterbury have accounted for Counties Manukau 38-23 and sound beaten North Harbour 38-0. They at least have had more success than Auckland who have not been convincing during the latter stages of the competition. Auckland have lost to Wellington 16-38 and Otago 33-37.

WE THINK: Canterbury have a formidable record but they are possibly more vulnerable than they have been in the last five years. That is not to say they cannot repeat their success in the competition, just that it is going to be much harder work. Auckland hit them hard early in the first half of their round-robin clash so they will know how potent the blue-and-whites can be. However, the Aucklanders have the frustrating ability to perform below par away from home. This semi-final represents a significant test for the young Auckland side. Canterbury know they have to do better in the lineouts while Auckland cannot afford mistakes which would allow Canterbury to seize on their efficient counter-attacking ability. It should be another fine encounter between the sides and extra time may be required before Canterbury take it by three.

Canterbury: 1.Joe Moody, 2.Ben Funnell, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Joel Everson, 5.Luke Katene, 6.Luke Whitelock, 7.George Whitelock (c), 8.Nasi Manu, 9.Andy Ellis, 10.Tyler Bleyendaal, 11.Rob Thompson, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Adam Whitelock, 14.Patrick Osborne, 15.Johnny McNicholl.

Subsitutes: 16.Seb Siataga, 17.Paea Fa'anunu, 18.Dominic Bird, 19.Jordan Taufua, 20. Willi Heinz, 21.Richie Mo;unga, 22.Jamie Verran.

Auckland: 1.Sam Prattley, 2.Tom McCartney, 3.Angus Ta'avao, 4.Liaki Moli, 5.Sean Brookman, 6.Sean Polwart, 7.Luke Braid, 8.Peter Saili, 9. Wayne Ngaluafe, 10.Simon Hickey, 11. George Moala, 12. Hadleigh Parkes (c), 13. Malakai Fekitoa, 14.Vince Aso, 15.Lolagi Visinia.

Substitutes: 16.Nathan Vella, 17.Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18.Kara Pryor, 19.Jack Whetton, 20.William Lloyd, 21.Junior Poluleuligaga, 22.Tenina Sauileoge.