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PREVIEW: Manawatu v Otago

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Thursday, October 13, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Manawatu have been something of an enigma during the competition. They showed in beating Canterbury (19-13) and Wellington (50-28) that they have some outstanding abilities but then they turned around and lost to Taranaki (19-30), Hawke's Bay (21-30) and most recently Bay of Plenty (33-38). Otago started out with a hiss and a roar but have run into some Premiership power and have lost their last three games to Canterbury (34-45), Auckland (17-54) and Counties Manukau (14-16).

Played: 40

Wins: Manawatu 14, Otago 20, Drawn 6

Last match: Manawatu 38 Otago 25, Dunedin, 2014

Teams:

Manawatu: 1.Tukiterangi Raimona, 2.Travis Taylor, 3.Jake Ilnicki, 4.Jackson Hemopo, 5.Tom Parsons, 6.Antonio Kiri Kiri, 7.Callum Gibbins, 8.Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 9.Kayne Hammington, 10.Otere Black, 11.Nathan Turdreu, 12.Hamish Northcott, 13.Jason Emery, 14.Ngani Laumape, 15.Curtis Ambrose.

Substitutes: 16.Hunter Prescott, 17.Chris Eves, 18.Michael Alaalatoa, 19.Kane Thompson, 20.Harrison Brewer, 21.Jamie Booth, 22.Aaron Cruden, 23.Curtis Reid.

Otago: 1.Craig Millar, 2.Sam Anderson-Heather, 3.Donald Brighouse, 4.Josh Dickson, 5.Blair Tweed, 6.Adam Knight, 7.Lee Allan, 8.Naulia Dawai, 9.Josh Walden, 10.Scott Eade, 11.Matt Faddes, 12.Teihorangi Walden, 13.Sio Tomkinson, 14.Tony Ensor, 15.Michael Collins.

Substitutes: 16.Liam Coltman, 17.Aki Seiuli, 18.Josh Hohneck, 19.James Lentjes, 20.Sione Teu, 21.Jonathan Ruru, 22.Fletcher Smith, 23.Gavin Stark.

Squad Update: All Black Aaron Cruden has been included on the Manawatu bench now that he has recovered from a groin injury suffered in New Zealand's home Test against Argentina. In the side prop Tukiterangi Raimona returns to the front row while Callum Gibbins is back on the open side of the scrum. Halfback Kayne Hammington returns to the starting role while Ngani Laumape has been named on the right wing with Ambrose Curtis at fullback. In the substitutes Kane Thompson is bracketed with Liam Hallam-Eames. Otago are without lock Tom Franklin who has suffered a slight fracture in his lower leg and he is replaced by Josh Dickson. A training injury suffered by Tom Rowe meant James Lentjes won't get his intended break. Wings Mitchell Scott and Fa'asiu Fuita'i have been rested with Tony Ensor and Matt Faddes on the flanks. Lee Allan starts at openside flanker. Liam Coltman will be on the bench while prop Aki Seiuli has recovered from a knee injury.

Key Players: Manawatu's loose forwards may well hold the key to this encounter. On their best form they are a highly impressive unit and could cause some problems if able to get out among the Otago backs. Manawatu's backline looks strong and it is no surprise that a place has been found for Ngani Laumape on the wing with Hamish Northcott and Jason Emery inside him. With that combination and Curtis Ambrose able to join the line there is the potential for plenty of action. Otago have named their side with an eye on next week's play-offs which they are assured of making but it would be handy to go into that phase having put a stop to the losing streak they have endured.