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Injection of youth set to boost Bay of Plenty

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Monday, August 5, 2019    allblacks.com    Getty Images

While there are plenty of experienced names sprinkled throughout the squad, it is the proliferation of young talent that really catches the eye in the Steamers class of 2019.

QUICK TAP: MAGPIES READY TO SOAR IN 2019

In the backline there are four players who have starred at age-grade level in recent seasons for Bay of Plenty. Halfback Leroy Carter, wing Lalomilo Lalomilo and fullback Cole Forbes have all made national honours for the New Zealand Under 20s while wing Emoni Narawa was one of the stars of the Jock Hobbs Under 19 tournament in 2018.

There’s also plenty of youth in the pack with lock Stan Van Den Hoven given a chance in the second row alongside former Bay of Plenty Under 19 teammate Joe Johnston at openside flanker.

21-year-old prop Tevita Mafileo made his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs earlier this year and will be looking to make his stamp on Mitre 10 Cup after being a part of the Steamers squad in 2018 but not playing a game.

But it’s not all youngsters in the pack for Bay of Plenty. 38-year-old lock Alex Ainley has moved north from Tasman and will provide invaluable experience and guidance for the young members of the squad.

With Tyler Ardron (Canada) and Kane Leaupepe (Samoa) missing from last year’s squad due to Rugby World Cup duties, Ainley’s inclusion in the squad is a real boost for the Steamers.
Mitchell Karpik is another player set for a big season with Bay of Plenty. Now aged 24, Karpik has established himself as a quality Super Rugby player and will be eyeing the next step in his development. With Sam Cane likely to be missing due to All Blacks duties, Karpik will be the leader of the loose forward trio and will look to impose himself as one of the leading players in the competition.

There is no shortage of excitement in the backline for Bay of Plenty. Richard Judd and Dan Hollinshead are a quality combination at halfback and first five and will be looking to spark their thrilling outside backs into action.

A back three of Chase Tiatia, Joe Webber and Joe Ravouvou is an exciting prospect for Bay of Plenty fans. Blessed with x-factor and searing pace, the terrific trio will cause plenty of headaches for opposition defence coaches this year.

If there was anywhere to pin-point a lack of depth for Bay of Plenty, it would be in the mid-field. In recent years the Steamers have boasted quality performers like Terrence Hepetema and Lalakai Foketi in the mid-field. With both players now plying their trade offshore, the Steamers will be looking for a new combination to fill the hole.

Overall, Bay of Plenty have named a well-rounded squad that should have enough fire-power to make the playoffs and will be a genuine shot at promotion to the Premiership.

Bay of Plenty squad:
Alex Ainley, Hugh Blake, Luke Campbell, Sam Cane, Aaron Carroll, Leroy Carter, Pryor Collier, Kurt Eklund, Chris Eves, Cole Forbes, Fa'asiu Fuatai, Matt Skipwith-Garland, Ross Geldenhuys, Nathan Harris, Dan Hollinshead, Joe Johnston, Richard Judd, Mitchell Karpik, Lalomilo Lalomilo, Tevita Mafileo, Hoani Matenga, Tom McHugh, Ajay Mua, Emoni Narawa, Abraham Papali'I, Liam Polwart, Joe Ravouvou, Jason Robertson, Aidan Ross, Jeff Thwaites, Chase Tiatia, Kaleb Trask, Stan van den Hoven, Nathan Vella, Baden Wardlaw, Joe Webber, Archie White

Last season: Fifth in Championship
Management: Head Coach: Clayton McMillan, Assistant Coaches: Mike Rogers, Marty Bourke and Mike Delany
Notable gains: Abe Papali’I, Archie White (Harlequins), Joe Ravouvou, Alex Ainley, Nathan Vella
Notable losses: Zane Kapeli (Tonga World Cup TBC), Tanerau Latimer (retired), Terrence Hepetema (Europe), Bailey Simonsson (Canberra Raiders NRL), Tyler Ardron (Canadian World Cup Team), Kane Leaupepe (Samoan World Cup team), James Lay (Europe)