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Preview: Northland v Otago

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Northland have had a miserable year and while any win would be a boost it would need to manage a big lift after the manner of their loss to Auckland on Saturday. Otago have made half a team of changes, but with the need to have key players available for their home game. They have three wins in succession to take into the game and know there is still an outside chance, albeit slim, of securing a home play-off semi-final ahead of Auckland. But that would be dependent at the very least on securing a bonus point win.

Northland have only pride to play for, and possibly an eye to staking claims for places next season. They too, face two games over the weekend to finish with an away game against North Harbour.

Played: 44
Wins: Northland 10, Otago 32, Drawn 2
Last Time: Northland 40 Otago 23 at Dunedin, 2014

Teams:

NORTHLAND: 1. Ross Wright, 2.Matt Moulds (captain), 3.Namatahi Waa, 4.Sean Sweetman, 5.Shane Neville 6.Jaycob Manu, 7.Taniela Manu, 8.Dan Pryor, 9.Sam Nock, 10.Dan Hawkins, 11.Jordan Hyland, 12.Troy Gilbert, 13.Warren Dunn, 14.Dave Thomas, 15.Matt Wright.

Reserves: 16.Jordan Olsen, 17.Howard Sililoto, 18.Matai Navarez, 19.Michael Stolberg, 20.Kara Pryor, 21.Kurt Davies, 22.Tyler Lansdowne, 23.Waisea Lawbuka.

OTAGO: 1.Aki Seiuli, 2.Liam Coltman, 3.Donald Brighouse, 4.Josh Dickson, 5.Blair Tweed, 6.Jackson Hemopo, 7.James Lentjes, 8.Charlie O'Connell, 9.Josh Renton, 10.Fletcher Smith, 11.Jack Wilson, 12.Tei Walden, 13.Michael Collins, 14.Jayden Spence, 15.Tony Ensor.

Reserves: 16.Sekonaia Pole, 17.Hisa Sasagi, 18.Craig Millar, 19.Adam Knight, 20.Naulia Dawai, 21.Kaide Whiting, 22.Peter Breen, 23.Sio Tomkinson.

Squad Update: Northland have selected their side with their Sunday game against rival North Harbour in mind. Taniela Manu and Jaycob Manu have been named on the flanks of the scrum with Kara Pryor on the bench. Waisea Lawbuka is on the bench with Jordan Hyland on the left wing. Howard Sililoto is on the bench with Ross Wright starting while Michael Stolberg is also in the reserves with Sean Sweetman starting and Shane Neville moving from the blindside flank to lock. Halfbacks Kurt Davies and Sam Nock have swapped starts with Nock running on while Dave Thomas starts on the wing in place of Filipo Nakosi.

Eight changes have been made by Otago who have the last game on Sunday in Dunedin against Bay of Plenty. In the pack Charlie O'Connell will start at No.8 while James Lentjes is making up for lost time since returning from concussion by playing his third game in a row. Blair Tweed returns to the side at lock while front rowers Donald Brighouse and Aki Seiuli will have starts. Fletcher Smith will start at first five-eighths with leading points scorer Peter Breen available to come off the bench if required. Tony Ensor also returns to the side at fullback. In the mid-field Michael Collins and Tei Walden have been paired while Jayden Spence will start on the wing.

Key Players: Dan Hawkins and his trusty goal-kicking boot could be vital if Northland are able to cash in on any penalties conceded within goal-kicking range. And if they can get enough ball to veteran centre Warren Dunn, he may be able to put the inexperience Otago defence under some pressure. Dan Pryor will have a big job leading his loose support but also doing battle with James Lentjes and Charlie O'Connell around the tackle zone. For Otago Fletcher Smith will appreciate the starting opportunity at first five-eighths while there will be interest in the contribution Tony Ensor can make in his return at fullback. Captain and hooker Liam Coltman has presided over a sound effort by Otago in the competition and a win in Whangarei would supplement the progress already made.