PREVIEW: Auckland v Canterbury

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Thursday, October 12, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Auckland v Canterbury, Eden Park, Auckland, Friday 7.35pm

Auckland have made three changes to their starting XV with Greg Pleasants-Tate back at hooker and George Moala at centre. First five-eighths Harry Plummer will make his first start after two outings from the bench. Hoskins Sotutu, the son of former Auckland back Waisake Sotutu, has been named on the bench and could make his debut covering two loose forward positions. He was a member of Auckland's winning Under-19 side and played for Auckland B recently.
Canterbury will welcome back skipper and No.8 Luke Whitelock from injury while they have promoted their front row from the bench to start with props Chris Gawler and Oli Jager joining hooker Nathan Vella. Lock Hamish Dalzell will start with Mitchell Dunshea on the bench. Reed Prinseep will start from the bench. In the backline NZ Under-20s world champion halfback Ere Enari will start with Jack Stratton on the bench. Rob Thompson has been rested at second five-eighths and Inga Finau will start and at fullback Caleb Makene will make his first start. Marshall Suckling will cover the outside backs from the bench.

Played: 99
Wins: Auckland 47, Canterbury 47, Draws 5
Last time: Auckland 3, Canterbury 43, Christchurch 2016

Auckland coach Nick White said while Canterbury would be frustrated with having lost the Ranfurly Shield to Taranaki in their last outing, they would still have plenty to fire them in running out against the old foe Auckland. "They'll want to get into us. It's been a while since we've beaten them [2013]. It's all in front of us," he said. The game is the 100th between the sides since 1883 and the record stands at 47 wins each with five draws. While Auckland are conscious of their vulnerability to relegation, White said there was plenty for the side to play for. "Some of our guys don't have contracts for next year, so if they can finish on a positive note that would be great for them and the union," he said.

Heading into the game Auckland have used 46 players this year, reflecting the horrific injury toll they have suffered. Only two players, three-quarter Vince Aso and prop Marcel Renata have started every match for the side. If Lautiume Fosita comes off the bench, which would be if Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald fails a fitness test before the game, he would be the sixth Auckland player to gain his blazer this year.


AUCKLAND: 1.Sam Prattley, 2.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 3.Marcel Renata, 4.Samuel Slade, 5.Ben Nee-Nee, 6.Taleni Seu, 7.Blake Gibson, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Jono Hickey, 10.Harry Plummer, 11.Joe Ravouvou, 12.TJ Faiane, 13.George Moala, 14.Vince Aso, 15.Melani Nanai.

Substitutes: 16.Kurt Eklund, 17.Isi Tu'ungafasi, 18.Dexter Fa'amoana, 19.Hoskins Sotutu, 20.Dalton Papali'i, 21.Nico Costa, 22.Jordan Trainor, 23.Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald/Latiume Fosita.

CANTERBURY: 1.Chris Gawler, 2.Nathan Vella, 3.Oliver Jager, 4.Hamish Dalzell, 5.Dominic Bird, 6.Tom Sanders, 7.Billy Harmon, 8.Luke Whitelock, 9.Ere Enari, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.Braydon Ennor, 12.Inga Finau, 13.Tim Bateman, 14.Josh McKay, 15.Caleb Makene.

Substitutes: 16.Ben Funnell, 17.Alex Hodgman, 18.Siate Tokolahi, 19.Mitchell Dunshea, 20.Reed Prinsep, 21.Jack Stratton, 22.Brett Cameron, 23.Marshall Suckling.