Exciting look to Hawke's Bay for 2017 campaign

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Thursday, August 10, 2017    Getty Images

As ever competition for positions will be helping coach Craig Philpott deliver a strong side, none more than first five-eighths where 54-game veteran Ihaia West has World Under-20 champion Tiaan Falcon demanding recognition. In pre-season play Falcon slotted in at fullback but the inside role should be an area of strength for the side.

Magpies centurion Chris Eaton will also keep the halfback seat warm ahead of Brad Weber's expected return from the third round of the series after the broken leg kept him out of all rugby earlier in the season.

The Bay have recruited well also and the Vaega brothers, Cardiff and TJ, will bolster the backline. Cardiff has played previously for Southland and Counties Manukau while TJ has been part of the Blues and Auckland rugby set-ups at lower grade level.

In the pack, Waratahs lock Nick Palmer has been signed since February. While still to crack the starting role for the Waratahs he joined the side after impressive displays for Sydney club Norths which went on to win the grand final and then claimed the top club in Australia title when beating Brisbane's finest.

Midfield back Pasqualle Dunn has also been signed from Auckland where he played alongside Cardiff Vaega for the College Rifles club.

With the highly-promising Jonah Lowe and All Blacks wider training group and Highlanders utility back Richard Buckman also in the backline, the talent is plentiful through the side.

In the pack the return of Ben May will provide support for 74-game veteran Ash Dixon in the front row where New Zealand Under-20 props Tim Farrell and Pouri Rakete-Stones will also be looking for opportunities. Also returning are Mark Braidwood and Jarvy Aoake.

In the locking department Mike Allardice from the Chiefs and Geoff Cridge from the Hurricanes there will be competition with Palmer looking to push his way in.

The loose will see Highlanders flanker Gareth Evans and Tony Lamborn working with Samoa flanker Fa'alemiga Selesele.

Hawke's Bay host Southland in their opening game on August 19 and then play Bay of Plenty in Rotorua on August 25.