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ITM Cup semi-final preview: Canterbury v Taranaki

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Friday, October 16, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

That's a tall order and with Canterbury having returned to their finest form this year, an even more demanding task.

Form: Canterbury have registered only the one loss this year – to Taranaki at AMI Stadium. And that was only be three points. Taranaki, by comparison, had a poor start losing three games, two of them at home but then only suffered last weekend's loss to Tasman, a 17-35 defeat which hit hard.

Played: 63

Wins: Canterbury 45, Taranaki 16, Drawn 2

Last match: Canterbury 21 Taranaki 24, at Christchurch, 2015

Teams:

CANTERBURY: 1.Dan Lienert-Brown, 2.Ben Funnell, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Michell Dunshea, 5.Dominic Bird, 6.Reed Prinsep, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Luke Whitelock (captain), 9.Mitchell Drummond, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.Marshall Suckling, 12.Rob Thompson, 13.Ryan Crotty, 14.Johnny McNicholl, 15.Tom Taylor.

Reserves: 16.Ged Robinson, 17.Alex Hodgman, 18.Siate Tokolahi, 19.Ben Matwijow, 20.Tom Sanders, 21.Jack Stratton, 22.Cameron McIntyre, 23.Milford Keresoma.

TARANAKI: 1.Mitchell Graham, 2.Hika Elliot, 3.Angus Ta'avao, 4.Riki Hoeata, 5.Blade Thomson, 6.Mitchell Crosswell, 7.Berny Hall, 8.Toa Halafihi, 9.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 10.Codey Rei, 11.Sean Wainui, 12.Charlie Ngatai (captain), 13.Seta Tamanivalu, 14.Jackson Ormond, 15.Kurt Baker.

Reserves, 16.Rhys Marshall, 17.Sione Lea, 18.Ryan Cocker, 19.Iopu Iopu-Aso, 20.Lachlan Boshier, 21.Kylem O'Donnell, 22.Liam McBride, 23.Latu Vaeno

Squad Update: Canterbury have Highlanders Super Rugby prop Dan Lienert-Brown to call on again as a result of Joe Moody's call-up by the All Blacks. With several players rested for last weekend's game with Southland there is a much stronger look to the side with Tom Taylor back at fullback, Ben Funnell at hooker and Matt Todd back on the flank of the scrum.

Taranaki have welcomed back centre Seta Tamanivalu who missed last week's game after an earlier head knock. But with his clearance, Charlie Ngatai has moved back in to second five-eighths while Sean Wainui has moved back to the left win. Berny Hall returns to the open side flanker's role in the side.

Key Players: Tom Taylor will be a key man for Canterbury with goal-kicking becoming much more important in the latter stages of the competition. He's already scored 108 points during the season and his success ratio of 76 percent is up with the best. First five-eighths Richard Mo'unga is another key performer. He has been much more consistent this year but Taranaki are bound to look to pressure him but expect the marshaling skills of centre Ryan Crotty to be to the fore. Up front Nepo Laulala shapes as a key performer in the scrimmaging while in the loose Todd and skipper Luke Whitelock will need to be at their best against a lively Taranaki combination.

Berny Hall, Mitchell Crosswell and Toa Halafihi have been in find touch for Taranaki during their period of recovery and they will be vital to their side's hopes. Codey Rei at first five-eighths and goal-kicker also has key responsibilities and the mid-field pairing of Ngatai and Tamanivalu