PREVIEW: Waikato v Manawatu (RS)

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Friday, September 2, 2016    Getty Images

Match details: Waikato v Manawatu, Sunday 4 September, 4.35pm, FMG Stadium, Hamilton

Played: 27
Wins: Manawatu 6, Waikato 19
Draws: 2
Last match: Waikato 28 Manawatu 21 (2015)

Manawatu are flying high in the Championship with two bonus point victories over Southland and Northland. Waikato started with a loss to Tasman before bouncing back with a 26-15 win over North Harbour in a passionate Ranfurly Shield defence last week.

The Manawatu Turbos have made a number of changes to the side which clinched a last gasp win over Southland last week. In the front row, Fraser Armstrong and Hunter Prescott come into the starting line up while Tom Parsons joins Kane Thompson in a rejigged second row. Waikato have been boosted by the inclusion of two All Blacks squad members in their match day 23. Damian McKenzie returns to the number 15 jersey while Tawera Kerr Barlow is added to the bench with Isaac Boss retaining the halfback spot.

Since their great Ranfurly Shield reign of 1976-1978, the Turbos haven’t tasted shield success and will be eyeing this as a great opportunity to break their drought. Waikato looked shaky at times against North Harbour and the Turbos will be looking to unleash their dynamic backline to put pressure on a Waikato side that is yet to put together an 80 minute performance this season. Blockbusting midfielder Ngani Laumape has been in irresistible form over the opening two rounds and will be looking to prove he is a big game player on the weekend.

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Waikato: Damian McKenzie, Jordan Trainor, Nathaniel Apa, Willis Halaholo, Sevu Reece, Sam Christie, Isaac Boss (c), Whetu Douglas, Murray Iti, Jordan Manihera, Brian Alainu'uese, Jacob Skeen, Atu Moli, Hame Faiva, Loni Uhila.
Reserves: Steven Misa, Sefo Kautai, Latu Talakai, Brad Tucker, Mitch Jacobson, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Tevita Taufui, Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara.

Manawatu: 15: Jason Emery 14: Newton Tudreu 13: Hamish Northcott 12: Ngani Laumape 11: Ambrose Curtis 10: Otere Black 9: Toby Morland 8: Heiden Bedwell-Curtis 7: Callum Gibbins (C) 6: Jackson Hemopo 5: Kane Thompson 4: Tom Parsons 3: Michael Alaalatoa 2: Hunter Prescott 1: Fraser Armstrong
Reserves: Travis Taylor, Tukiterangi Raimona, Chris Eves, Valentino Mapapalangi, Antonio Kiri Kiri, Jamie Booth, Sam Malcolm, Nathan Tudreu