PREVIEW: Auckland v Taranaki

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Thursday, September 7, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Auckland v Taranaki, Eden Park, Saturday, September 9, 2.35pm
Auckland are feeling the effect of injuries with 11 players unavailable for selection consideration, three of them out for the season while they also have three players on All Blacks duties. Three others have been released for the Jock Hobbs Memorial national Under-19 tournament. Six changes have been made to the starting XV from the weekend. Mid-fielder George Moala has a slight hamstring injury and won't play. Jordan Trainor returns at fullback while first five-eighths Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald has been promoted from the B team to make his fifth appearance. Jerome Kaino's inclusion at No.8 has allowed Blake Gibson to return to the open side flank. Taranaki will be captained by prop Angus Ta'avao who played 38 games for Auckland earlier in his career. He is stepping in for second five-eighths Charlie Ngatai, who is being rested, while the other captaincy option Leighton Price is out with a back injury. Lock Kane Thompson, after initially being called in as injury cover, has been included in the reserves and with Leon Power also unable to lock Fin Hoeata has been promoted to start. Sean Wainui will replaced Ngatai in the mid-field.

Played: 125
Wins: Auckland 87, Taranaki 29, Draws 9
Last time: Auckland 32 Taranaki 35, New Plymouth 2016

After the record loss to North Harbour on Sunday, Auckland are looking for a strong response against Taranaki. Coach Nick White said, "It's been a tough week, but we are not shying away from that or getting too emotional. It's about finding solutions and this group is the only one that can make it right." However, Taranaki coach Colin Cooper is not taking Auckland lightly as a result of their poor start to the competition. "They're wounded so will be dangerous and we've got to be prepared for that. They have a lot of x-factor and haven't been putting it together so far, but that will come. Our defence took a step up last week and it's something we've been working further on this week, along with improving our set-piece. They're going to test that so we've got to go up there with a good attitude," he said.

Taranaki goes into their fourth game with some impressive statistics. They have scored 14 tries, made 1562 metres from 359 carries. With 42 clean breaks and 73 defenders beaten their willingness to move the ball is reflected in their 413 passes. Their tackle success rate is 84.1 percent. Just how much Auckland have struggled is evident in their seven tries in their four games. They have made 1284 metres from 462 carries. They have managed only 17 clean breaks and have beaten 55 defenders. For all that their tackle success rate is 89.5 percent.


Auckland: 1.Isi Tu'ungafasi, 2.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 3.Marcel Renata, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 5.Ben Nee-Nee, 6.Taleni Seu, 7.Blake Gibson, 8.Jerome Kaino, 9.Jono Hickey, 10.Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald, 11.Pryor Collier, 12.TJ Faiane, 13.Malakai Fekitoa, 14.Vince Aso, 15.Jordan Trainor.

Substitutes: 16.Kurt Eklund, 17.Emersen Tamura-Paki, 18.Marco Fepuleai, 19.Lyndon Dunshea, 20.Sinclair Dominikovich-Murray, 21.Lisati Milo-Harris, 22.Latiume Fosita, 23.Tumua Manu.

Taranaki: 1.Mitchell Graham, 2.Ricky Riccitelli, 3.Angus Ta'avao (captain), 4.Brad Tucker, 5.Fin Hoeata, 6.Pita-Gus Sowakula, 7.Lachlan Boshier, 8.Toa Halafihi, 9.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 10.Stephen Perofeta, 11.Manasa Mataele, 12.Sean Wainui, 13.Seta Tamanivalu, 14.Declan O'Donnell, 15.Marty McKenzie.

Substitutes: 16.Donald Maka, 17.Jared Proffit, 18.Reuben O'Neill, 19.Kane Thompson, 20.Adrian Wyrill, 21.Kylem O'Donnell, 22.Charlie Ngatai, 23.Johnny Fa'auli.