PREVIEW: Manawatu v Canterbury

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Friday, September 16, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Manawatu have only a 50 percent win record in their four games, and both of them over Championship rivals, Northland (34-27) and Southland (34-31). They lost their Ranfurly Shield challenge with Waikato (10-19) while also losing to North Harbour (25-29). It is not the sort of record needed if aiming to topple the pace-setting, and unbeaten, defending champions Canterbury who have four wins, three of them against Premiership sides Auckland (43-3), Tasman (45-14) and Hawke's Bay (63-7) while they also beat Northland (52-34).

Played: 39

Wins: Manawatu 9, Canterbury 28, Drawn 2

Last match: Manawatu 17 Canterbury 57, Palmerston North (2015)

Teams: Manawatu: 1.Fraser Armstrong, 2.Travis Taylor, 3.Michael Alaalatoa, 4.Tom Parsons, 5.Jackson Hemopo, 6.Harrison Brewer, 7.Callum Gibbins (captain), 8.Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 9.Jamie Booth, 10.Otere Black, 11.Ambrose Curtis, 12.Hamish Northcott, 13.Ngani Laumape, 14.Curtis Reid, 15.Jason Emery.

Substitutes: 16.Hunter Prescott, 17.Tukiterangi Raimona, 18.Chris Eves, 19.Liam Hallam-Eames, 20.Antonia Kiri Kiri, 21.Kayne Hammington, 22.Sam Malcom, 23.Nathan Tudreu.

Canterbury: 1.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2.Ben Funnell, 3.Siate Tokolahi, 4.Scott Barrett, 5.Dominc Bird, 6.Tom Sanders, 7.Jed Brown, 8.Luke Whitelock (captain), 9.Ere Enari, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.George Bridge, 12.Rob Thompson, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Marshall Suckling, 15.Jordie Barrett.

Substitutes: 16.Tom Crozier, 17.Alex Hodgman, 18.Oliver Jager, 19.David McDuling, 20.Reed Prinseep, 21.Alby Mathewson, 22.Ben Volavola, 23.Johnny McNicholl.

Squad Update:

Making his debut for Manawatu will be hooker Travis Taylor while prop Michael Alaalatoa is back in the starting side. Kane Thompson is out due to a minor groin strain and his place at lock has been taken by Jackson Hemopo. Also making his debut will be blindside flanker is Irishman Harrison Brewer. Veteran halfback Toby Morland is still suffering a thigh injury so Jamie Booth will start at halfback again.. Newton Tudreu has suffered a serious knee injury and Curtis Reid will start in his place.

Some new players will be eased into the Canterbury side this week with Tom Crozier on the bench as hooking back-up to Ben Funnell while peripatetic Alby Mathewson will possibly add another province to his resume as cover at halfback with Mitchell Drummond out for the season. That gives Ere Enari his first start. Marshall Suckling has been named on the wing with Johnny McNicholl dropping back to the reserves.

Key Players:

Manawatu will be hoping Ngani Laumape keeps his try scoring record alive because that will at least keep them in the game. But on a personal level he has a chance to crack the record of tries scored for Manawatu in the provincial competition, jointly held on eight by Doug Rollerson (1980) and Christian Cullen (1995. Skipper Callum Gibbins will be looking for some support in the loose as he takes on Luke Whitelock and Co, although the competition may be more even in Matt Todd's absence. Otere Black will also be looking for good service in the face of the dominating role his opposite Richie Mo'unga has established for Canterbury. Centre Jack Goodhue is growing in confidence each week while fullback Jordy Barrett can be expected to cause Manawatu some problems.