Preview: Manawatu v Hawke’s Bay

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Friday, October 24, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Squad update: Nathan Tudreu switches from the left wing to the right, while former Fielding High School’s Semisi Masirewa will wear the number 11 jersey.

With Newton Tudreu dropping to the reserves bench, the ITM Cup Championship hosts have kept the rest of their starting XV intact.

The Magpies, who recently locked up the Ranfurly Shield for the Summer, have made just one change, with Richard Buckman replaced by Mathew Berquist at 15.

Fullback Buckman suffered a knee injury during Hawke’s Bay win over Northland in the semi-finals, and will be out for at least six weeks.

Form: Manawatu’s 23-18 win over Southland ensured that the Turbos would host the 2014 Championship final, thanks to the top of the table finishers 8-2 record and 35 competition points over the regular season.

With four straight wins, the hosts will be confident they can succeed and win promotion to the ITM Cup Premiership.

The Magpies, who have the Ranfurly Shield for the next few months, drew with Southland 20-20 in an epic but will know they have the weaponry to again be promoted to the top division.

Key Players: Rob Foreman becomes the eleventh player in Manawatu’s history to bring up a century, and the durable hooker will eye off Gary Knight’s Turbos provincial record of 146 matches.

Otere Black has been magnificent running the show from first five-eighth, while Jason Emery and Nehe Milner-Skudder have been constant inflences from out wide.

Ash Dixon and Brendon O’Connor have been the leaders for the Magpies up front, and to be fair the likes of Michael Allardice and Tony Lamborn deserve more credit for their efforts this season.

West has been a trinket out wide, but despite his combination with Chris Eaton, it has been the three quarters that have dazzled.

Ryan Tongia, Shannan Chase and Robbie Fruean have caused immense chaos for opposition defences, and the influence of the outside division will decide where the Championship title, and eventual promotion to the Premiership, will lie.