PREVIEW: Counties Manukau v Auckland

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Thursday, August 17, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Counties Manukau v Auckland, Ecolight Stadium, Pukekohe, Saturday, 7.35pm

Auckland will have three debutants taking the field, with another four in their substitutes. Making their starting debuts will be: fullback Jordan Trainor, who has had two seasons in Waikato, wing Caleb Clarke, the world champion New Zealand Under-20 wing from this year and blindside flanker Samuel Slade, who was also part of the Under-20 side. Clarke is aged 18 while Slade is 19. Clarke is the son of former All Black Eroni Clarke. Also back in the blue and white stripes is centre Malakai Fekitoa, who last played in 2013, and Vince Aso, who made such a mark with the Hurricanes in Super Rugby this year. Counties Manukau will have two debut players, centre Sam Furniss and Brumbies wing Nigel Ah Wong. Unavailable due to injury were lock/blindside flank utility Jimmy Tupou, Glen Fisi'iahi, Albert Nikoro, Tevita Nabura and forwards Suliasi Taufalele and Matt Vaai.

Played: 58
Wins: Counties Manukau 13, Auckland 44, Drawn 1
Last time: Auckland 26-30 Counties Manukau, Eden Park, 2016

Auckland and All Black lock Patrick Tuipulotu will have extra duties this year as captain of the provincial side. Due to international commitments in recent seasons Tuipulotu has only 14 games for Auckland to his credit but in terms of experience he is well versed at higher levels. Coach Nick White expects the captaincy role will be just the boost Tuipulotu needs after disappointments during the Super Rugby season. "I don't think he was expecting it when I asked him. It will be a challenge, but a good one for him. We want him to play well, first and foremost. He's not a huge talker, but he'll get guys following him."

In 2001 Stephen Donald made his first appearance for Counties Manukau as a schoolboy and he returns to the side for the first time since 2003. He had previously played 22 games for the province before heading south to Waikato and Chiefs and All Blacks selection. He will play at second five-eighths outside Baden Kerr and inside Furniss. Returning to team after recovering from injuries are loose forwards Ronald Raaymakers and Sam Henwood, first five-eighths Baden Kerr and Donald, and Samoan and Chiefs utility Tim Nanai-Williams.

Counties Manukau: 1.Pauliasi Manu, 2.Gafatasi Su'a, 3.Kalolo Tuiloma, 4.Viliame Rarasea, 5.Matiaha Martin, 6.Ronald Raaymakers, 7.Fotu Lokotui, 8.Sam Henwood; 9.Augustine Pulu (c), 10.Baden Kerr, 11.Tim Nanai-Williams, 12.Stephen Donald, 13.Sam Furniss, 14.Nigel Ah Wong, 15.Luteru Laulala.

Substitutes: 16.Joe Royal, 17.Sean Bagshaw, 18.Coree Te Whata-Colley, 19.Daymon Leasuasu, 20.Viliami Taulani, 21.Jonathan Taumateine, 22.Orbyn Leger, 23.Kalione Hala.

Auckland: 1.Sam Prattley, 2.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 3.Marcel Renata, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 5.Scott Scrafton, 6.Samuel Slade, 7.Blake Gibson, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Jono Hickey, 10.Daniel Bowden, 11.Caleb Clarke, 12.George Moala, 13.Malakai Fekitoa, 14.Vince Aso, 15.Jordan Trainor.

Substitutes: 16.Kurt Eklund, 17.Isi Tu'ungafasi, 18.Dexter Fa'amoana, 19.Ben Nee-nee, 20.Jamason Fa'anana-Schultz, 21.Lisati Milo-Harris, 22.Otumaka Mausia, 23.TJ Faiane.