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Preview: Northland v Counties Manukau

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Friday, September 18, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Northland face the greatest hurdle while Counties Manukau need to shrug their cloak of under-performance if they are to avoid relegation worries.

Form: Northland haven't won a game in the competition to date and the lack of confidence has been reflected in their two most recent outings against Premiership sides Taranaki (7-50) and Manawatu (17-42). Counties Manukau have been on a horror trot having lost five games since their one-point win over Manawatu to start the season. Their last loss, to North Harbour, was especially disappointing 20-28. Northland represent a chance to get some more points on the board and to ease the relegation pressure the side is now facing.

Played: 81

Wins: Northland 50, Counties Manukau 27, Drawn 4

Last match: Northland 31, Counties Manukau 44, Whangarei 2012

Teams:

Northland: 1.Howard Sililoto, 2.Matt Moulds, 3.Narnatahi Waa, 4.Josh Goodhue, 5.Michael Stolberg, 6.Jaycob Matiu, 7.Kara Pryor, 8.Dan Pryor, 9.Sam Nock, 10.Dan Hawkins, 11.Jone Macilai, 12.Troy Gilbert, 13.Dave Thomas, 14.Jordan Hyland, 15.Mathew Wright.

Reserves: 16.Jordan Olsen, 17.Ross Wright, 18.Matt Talaese, 19.Sean Sweetman, 20.Taniela Manu, 21.Kurt Davies, 22.Wisea Lawbuka, 23.Filipo Nakosi.

Counties Manukau: 1.Pauliasi Manu, 2.Gafatasi Su'a, 3.Sam Aiono 4.Sikeli Nabou, 5.Viliame Rarasea, 6.Jordan Taufua (captain), 7.Sam Henwood, 8.Maama Vaipulu, 9.Richard Judd, 10.Piers Francis, 11.Sam Vaka, 12.Johnny Fa'auli, 13.Cardiff Vaega, 14.Frank Halai, 15.Toni Pulu.

Reserves: 16.Michael Lea, 17.Sean Bagshaw, 18.John Tu'ungafasi, 19.Harry Fitzsimmons, 20.Dan Hyatt, 21.Pele Cowley, 22.Willie Walker, 23.Sione Fifita.


Squad Update: Northland have suffered a setback with news that Dan Bowden will not be appearing for them at all this season after complications with a groin injury. Matt Talaese is back from his three-week suspension and will start from the bench while Kurt Davies is also on the bench after recovering from a broken hand. Wing Waisea Lawbuka has recovered from a lower-calf injury and will also be on the bench.

Counties Manukau have been hamstrung by Jimmy Tupou's suspension which has resulted in Jordan Taufua moving to the blindside of the scrum and taking over the captaincy while Maama Vaipulu returns at No.8. A leg injury to Jarrod Firth has resulted in Sam Aiono moving into the front row. Set to make their debut after being named on the bench are lock Harry Fitzsimmons and halfback Pele Cowley, a Samoan international, who has joined the side as a result of the extension of time Augustine Pulu is out after his arm surgery. Back from injury are Dan Hyatt and Willie Walker.

Key Players: Counties Manukau's pack have to take charge if they are to dominate this game. That would allow Jordan Taufua, Sam Henwood and Maama Vaipulu to contain the dangerous Northland loosies, headed by the Pryor brothers, Dan and Kara. If they can get good ball, there is plenty of ability in the Counties Manukau backline to take advantage of the situation. Frank Halai should feature in an interesting battle with his marker Jone Macilai.