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Another Williams fronts for Auckland

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Friday, September 23, 2005    NZPA    Photosport

Gavin Williams did not get past the bench, even with a midfield reshuffle, while All Black lock Ali Williams is to be rested for another round.

Bryce Williams should have been the next choice lock but he is heading to Leinster.

Instead up stepped Jay Williams, captain of the Auckland development side and younger brother of the international lock.

According to those who have watched him, there is little between the pair in appearance and performance.

That decision was just one in a series of surprises when coach Pat Lam announced his side today.

Fullback Brent Ward, centre Ben Atiga, loose forwards Jerome Kaino, Justin Collins and reserve lock Cam Jowitt were all out through injury.

Senior halfback Steve Devine has been restored after his struggles and appointed captain in place of Collins who was knocked out last week against Taranaki.

The injuries have meant some shuffling with the promising utility Isaiah Toeava moved to fullback, Isakela Nacewa moving off the wing to centre with the return of All Black Doug Howlett.

There is also a reappearance, at his request, on the bench for another Test wing, Joe Rokocoko.

In the pack, Bradley Mika moves to No 8, Angus MacDonald switches to blindside flanker and the younger Williams is introduced for his debut at lock.

The changes were a response to injuries, Lam said, not a reaction to the side's first defeat last week.

Toeava could play in the five-eighths or fullback.

"He has a lot of talent and has the skills that in most positions he is pretty comfortable."

It was a chance for Mika to play at No.8 where Lam felt he had potential to make a serious impression.

A camp at Waiheke Island, pre-planned for early this week, had been good timing after the 19-40 loss to Taranaki. It refocused the squad and reintegrated the All Blacks. "There is a good feeling to put things right," said Lam.

"When you look at the game, and you have to give credit to Taranaki, of course, that was our worst defensive effort for a long time.

"When you miss 36 tackles in a game, and every single player missed a tackle, it just says something about where we are at."

Northland are without kingpin David Holwell, who is out with a shoulder injury. They are struggling at the bottom of the table but they could not be discounted or Auckland could suffer again as they did in New Plymouth.