PREVIEW: Canterbury v Hawke's Bay

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Friday, September 9, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Canterbury have been in runaway form in the Mitre 10 Premiership winning all three games by substantial margins. They opened with a 43-3 win over Auckland, a 45-14 win over Tasman but then let in 34 points in their 52-34 win over Northland. Hawke's Bay have still to register a win having played four games. They lost to Wellington 26-36, Taranaki 28-55, Counties Manukau 20-48 and on Wednesday to Auckland 24-25.

Played: 54

Wins: Canterbury 31, Hawke's Bay 21, Drawn 3

Last match: Canterbury 29 Hawke's Bay 15, Christchurch 2015

Canterbury: 1.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2.Nathan Vella, 3.Siate Tokohahi, 4.Scott Barrett, 5.Dominic Bird, 6.Tom Sanders, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Luke Whitelock (captain), 9.Jack Stratton, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.George Bridge, 12.Rob Thompson, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Johnny McNicholl, 15.Jordie Barrett.

Substitutes: 16.Ben Funnell, 17.Alex Hodgman, 18.Oliver Jager, 19.David McDuling, 20.Reed Prinsep, 21.Ere Enari, 22.Nathan Earle, 23.Ben Volavola.

Hawke's Bay: 1.Tolu Fahamokioa, 2.Ricky Riccitelli, 3.Ben May, 4.Geoff Cridge, 5.Ross Filipo, 6.Mark Abbott, 7.Tony Lamborn, 8.Marino Mikaele Tu'u, 9.Ellery Wilson, 10.Ihaia West, 11.Mason Emerson, 12.Tiaan Falcon, 13.Jonah Lowe, 14.Ryan Tongia, 15.Matt Garland.

Substitutes: 16.Ash Dixon, 17.Jason Long, 18.Mason Kean, 19.Ben Hamelink, 20.Faaelemiga Selesele, 21.Chris Eaton, 22.Billy Ropiha, 23.Shannan Chase.

Squad Update: Jack Stratton gets a start at halfback following the broken leg suffered by regular halfback Mitchell Drummond. Ere Enari will provide the halfback cover off the bench. Nathan Vella will start at hooker with Ben Funnell on the bench. Richie Mo'unga returns to first five-eighths and Jordie Barrett is at fullback while Johnny McNicholl moves back to the wing. David McDuling is set to make his debut at lock from the bench. Hawke's Bay are without halfback Brad Weber with Ellery Wilson getting a start and Chris Eaton in the reserves. Mark Abbott has moved to the blindside flank of the scrum with Ross Filipo starting at lock.

Key Players: Having got themselves up for a big effort which so nearly came off against Auckland, Hawke's Bay now have to lift themselves even higher to meet Canterbury in Christchurch. It is a tough ask especially with Canterbury having made such an electrifying start to the campaign. Even slightly down on personnel the competition within the Canterbury side makes a drop in experience minimal. Nathan Vella will have his chance at hooker while lock Scott Barrett returns and in the backline the absence of Drummond will require some protection of Jack Stratton. Hawke's Bay have bolstered up their pack and Abbott will be another key performer. If he and Tony Lamborn are able to get among the Canterbury loosies there will be some interesting contests, but whichever way it is looked at it is going to be a tough visit for the northerners.