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Preview: Taranaki v Counties Manukau

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Both sides have had disappointing openings to their campaign. In six games one win has been recorded and that was Counties Manukau's opener against Manawatu, and that was only by one point, 36-35.

Taranaki had cause for regret at the weekend went getting out a handy lead over Otago in pouring rain in New Plymouth. But the visitors employed their lineout maul to effect and secured a win in injury time to leave the defending champions winless so far this year.

Counties Manukau did worse when soundly beaten 35-11 by Hawke's Bay in Pukekohe. The speed of the Hawke's Bay backs undid the Counties Manukau defence and belied their respective status' in the Championship and Premiership sections.

Played: 33

Wins: Taranaki 18, Counties Manukau 13, Drawn 2

Last match: Taranaki 9, Counties Manukau 9

Teams:

Taranaki: 1.Mitchell Graham, 2.Sione Lea, 3.Angus Ta'avao, 4.Mitchell Brown, 5.Blade Thomson, 6.Mitchell Crosswell, 7.Lachlan Boshier, 8.Iopu Iopu-Aso, 9.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 10.Codey Rei, 11.Jackson Ormond, 12.Charlie Ngatai (captain), 13.Seta Tamanivalu, 14.Latu Vaeno, 15.Kurt Baker.

Reserves: 16.Hika Elliot, 17.Reuben O'Neill, 18.Ryan Crocker, 19.Riki Hoeata, 20. Berny Hall, 21.David Ormrod, 22.Liam McBride, 23.Sean Wainui.

Counties Manukau: 1.Pauliasi Manu, 2.Gafatasi Su'a, 3.Sam Aiono 4.Mike Lawrenson, 5.Jimmy Tupou (captain), 6.Dan Hyatt, 7.Jordan Taufua, 8.Maama Vaipulu, 9.Richard Judd, 10.Piers Francis, 11.Sione Fifita, 12.Johnny Fa'auli, 13.Sam Vaka, 14.Toni Pulu, 15.Jared Page.

Reserves: 16.Sione Anga'aelangi 17.Sean Bagshaw, 18.John Tu'ungafasi, 19.Sikeli Nabou, 20.Sam Henwood, 21.Kane Hancy, 22.Nathan de Thierry, 23.Cardiff Vaega.


Squad Update: Joining the side is former All Blacks hooker Hika Elliot which will compensate for the loss of Rhys Marshall who is suffering concussion. Back from concussion is prop Angus Ta'avao while Lachlan Boshier will start on the openside flank. Liam McBride is set to make his debut in the backs after being called into the reserves from the Taranaki development side.

Coach Tana Umaga has swept a broom through the side that lost to Hawke's Bay at the weekend with nine changes. Returning to the pack are front rowers Pauliasi Manu, Gafa Sua and Sam Aiono while Mike Lawrenson is back at lock with Jordan Taufua returning to the openside flank. Back from a long injury break is replacement hooker Siona Anga'aelangi

Key Players: Codey Rei becomes a key player for Taranaki. With Beauden Barrett back in All Blacks harness, and Marty McKenzie still on the injury list it is going to take a firm guiding hand from Rei to drive his side around the paddock to best effect. The battle up front should be worth the price of admission as Mitchell Graham, Sion Lea and Angus Ta'avao line up against the reshaped Counties Manukau front row of the experienced Pauliasi Manu, Gafatasi Su'a and Sam Aiono.

Jordan Taufua's return to the loose will be important for the visitors as Lachlan Boshier faces a steep difference in experience for Taranaki.
If they are able to secure quality ball, the Taranaki backs may hold the final sway in this encounter with second five-eighths Charlie Ngatai and centre Seta Tamanivalu always requiring plenty of attention from their opponents.