Preview: Taranaki v Manawatu

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Thursday, September 22, 2016    Getty Images

Form: Taranaki will mot need reminding of their last Mitre 10 Cup match - a 20-20 draw with Waikato that saw the prized Ranfurly Shield stay at Mooloos HQ. It was their second match in five days, after scraping to a narrow 30-29 win over Counties Manukau in Pukekohe. Despite the disappointing defeat they currently sit in second place with 20 points.

Manawatu arrive at Yarrow Stadium having claimed a famous 19-13 win over Canterbury. It was the perfect response, after they were downed 25-29 by North Harbour on September 10. The Turbos sit in third spot with 15 points in the Championship, but they do have a game in hand over the rest of the top four.

Played: 86
Wins: Taranaki 56, Manawatu 23, Draws 7
Last Time: Taranaki 44 Manawatu 10, 2015 (Palmerston North)

Taranaki: 1. Mitchell Graham, 2. Sione Lea, 3. Reuben O'Neill, 4. Ben Matwijow, 5. Leighton Price, 6. Iopu Iopu-Aso, 7. Berny Hall (captain), 8. Toa Halafihi, 9. Kylem O'Donnell, 10. Marty McKenzie, 11. Latu Vaeno, 12. Johnny Fa'auli, 13. Seta Tamanivalu, 14. Declan O'Donnell, 15. Stephen Perofeta.

Reserves: 16. Rhys Marshall, 17. Jared Proffitt, 18. Asa Sorovaki, 19. Mitchell Brown, 20. Lachlan Boshier, 21. Cody Whittaker, 22. Jackson Ormond, 23. Manasa Mataele.

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. Kayne Hammington, 10. Otere Black, 11. Nathan Tudreu, 12. Ngani Laumape, 13. Curtis Reid, 14. Ambrose Curtis, 15. Jason Emery.

Reserves: 16. Tim Cadwallader, 17. Tukiterangi Raimona, 18. Chris Eves, 19. Liam Hallam-Eames, 20. Antonio Kiri Kiri, 21. Jamie Booth, 22. Sam Malcolm, 23. Luther Hirini.

Squad Update: Taranaki have made eight changes to the starting lineup to face the Turbos. Sione Lea gets an opportunity at hooker in place of Rhys Marshall, while Reuben O'Neill also gets a rare start at tighthead prop. Berny Hall takes the captaincy reins after a two-week concussion-forced absence. Cody Whittaker is also in line to make his debut from the bench.

Mitch Crosswell (ribs) and halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (ankle) are unavailable for the hosts.

For the Turbos, Hamish Northcott has been ruled out with a head knock, and while it isn't a concussion issue, reports out of Palmerston North say the centre has swelling and numbness in his face. Kane Thompson (groin) is also out for the visitors.

One player who is available is Nathan Tudreu, who has put aside concussion and knee problems for the Championship outfit.

Key Players: Iopu Iopu-Aso's return to the Bulls will boost the hosts, and while he had previously played at No.8, Toa Halafihi's impressive form means the pair are lifting their game, and alongside captain Hall will form an impressive loose forward trio.

Seta Tamanivalu will be desperate to repay the Taranaki faithful, after a no-arm tackle played a significant part in his side missing out on the elusive Ranfurly Shield last week.

The Turbos have the impressive first five-eighths and second five-eighths combination of Otere Black and Ngani Laumape respectively. The latter has been a revelation for the hosts in 2016, scoring a competition-high six tries so far in the competition.