PREVIEW: Hawke's Bay v Auckland

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Monday, September 5, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Hawke's Bay have had a battling start to the year with three losses, and crucially, two of those have been at home. They lost 26-36 to Wellington and 20-48 to Counties Manukau at home and then 28-55 to Taranaki away. Auckland had a real thumping at Canterbury's hands 3-43 in the opening round but have since had a 37-15 win over Northland and 51-16 over Southland, two of the poorer performing sides in the Championship.

Wins: Hawke's Bay 18, Auckland 53, Drawn 5
Last match: Hawke's Bay 17 Auckland 12, Napier, 2015 (RS)

Hawke's Bay: 1.Ricci Riccitelli, 2.Ash Dixon (captain), 3.Ben May, 4.Geoff Cridge, 5.Mark Abbott, 6.Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 7.Tony Lamborn, 8.Fa'alemiga Selesele, 9.Brad Weber, 10.Ihaia West, 11.Mason Emerson, 12.Tiaan Falcon, 13.Jonah Lowe, 14.Robbie Fruean, 15.Ryan Tongia.

Substitutes: 16.Jorian Tangaere, 17.Jason Long, 18.Tolu Fahamokioa, 19.Ross Filipo, 20.Ben Hamlink, 21.Chris Eaton, 22.Billy Ropiha, 23.Matt Garland.

Auckland: 1.Tom McHugh, 2.Kurt Eklund, 3.Marcel Renata, 4.Scott Scrafton, 5.Michael Fatialofa, 6.Liaki Moli, 7.Akira Ioane, 8.Joe Edwards, 9.Jono Hickey, 10.Simon Hickey, 11.Pryor Collier, 12.Vince Aso, 13.Rieko Ioane, 14.Joesava Ravouvou, 15.Tyrone Elkington-Macdonald.

Substitutes: 16.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17.Isi Tu'ungafasi, 18.James Lay, 19.Ben Nee-Nee, 20.Taleni Seu, 21.Leon Fukofuka, 22.Latiume Fosita, 23.Pasqualle Dunn.

Squad Update: Hawke's Bay have looked to get more fizz from their backline by putting first five-eighths Tiaan Falcon outside regular first five-eighths Ihaia West. They will look to unlease the strike power of former NZ Under-20 centre Jonah Lowe and wings Robbie Fruean and Mason Emerson. Halfback Chris Eaton has recovered from a calf injury and will back-up Brad Weber from the bench. Auckland will have plenty of size in their pack with lock Liaki Moli moved to the blindside flank. Auckland have a double-header this week so dynamic blindside Taleni Seu will start on the bench along with front rowers Greg Pleasants-Tate and Isi Tu'ungafasi. Jono Hickey has been given the start at halfback.

Key Players: Jonah Lowe is shaping as a key performer with his ability to break the line but he will be looking for quicker support. Tony Lamborn is a key performer in the loose but will be looking for key back-up in contesting with a very strong Auckland loose forward trio. After their barn-storming efforts last weekend there is no need to remind Hawke's Bay defenders of the job they will need to do containing Akira and Rieko Ioane. But wing Joesava Ravouvou showed some good touches last week while second five-eighths Vince Aso is also a dangerous proposition.