Thursday, August 9, 2018
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Defending Ranfurly Shield holders and beaten Mitre 10 Cup semifinalists last year, Taranaki have assembled a strong-looking squad for their 2018 campaign.
Forty-seven players have been named but missing for most of the season should be the three Barrett brothers, Beauden, Jordie and Scott, on All Blacks duties, along with Waisake Naholo and possibly, for part of the time, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
Also missing due to injuries that will keep them out for the season will be: Mitchell Brown (knee), Mitchell Graham (ankle), Finn Hoeata (shoulder), Marty McKenzie (hip) and Sean Wainui (shoulder).
Some of the achievements of last year's side will take plenty to repeat. But if they can retain their ability to overcome deficits, especially that against Canterbury when they were down 0-24 early in the game before turning it on in the second half to win 55-43 and to claim the Ranfurly Shield, then there should be plenty of action during the campaign.
That has been telegraphed as a result of their two Ranfurly Shield warm-ups against Poverty Bay (won 78-0) and Wanganui (33-10).
Even with the injuries sustained by several Super Rugby players there is still a solid look to the side. The backline especially will be one of the most difficult to contain. With Tahuriorangi on All Blacks duty, the availability of former All Black Brendon Leonard will be especially welcome.
First five-eighths Stephen Perofeta had plenty of experience with the Blues during the year while the return home from Otago of second five-eighths Tei Walden will ensure the gap left by Charlie Ngatai is well and truly filled. With Seta Tamanivalu possibly at centre and the likelihood that Manasa Mataele and Kiniviliame Naholo will be available on the wings, there is a hint of power on the flanks.
Up front Angus Ta'avao will captain the side from tighthead prop with Ricky Riccitelli alongside him at hooker. But filling the gap left on the loosehead could provide a chance for Chris Gawler, who has played for Canterbury while studying at university in Christchurch.
Jarrad Hoeata and Kane Thompson are two seasoned campaigners in the middle row while in the loose forwards openside flanker Lachlan Boshier will be a key asset with Adrian Wyrill as back-up. After a big season last year Toa Halafihi will provide strength at No.8 while on the blindside Pita Sowakula completes a solid-looking unit.
Taranaki open their campaign on the road in Rotorua on August 18 before hosting Manawatu in a Ranfurly Shield defence on August 24.
The Taranaki squad is:
Beauden Barrett (26), Jordie Barrett (0), Scott Barrett (0), Lachlan Boshier (26), Mitchell Brown (27), Mitchell Crosswell (40), Logan Crowley (4), Tom Florence (2), Chris Gawler (0), Mitchell Graham (44), Toa Halafihi (34), Fin Hoeata (10), Jarrad Hoeata (69), Jack Jordan (0), Brendon Leonard (0), Avon Lewis (4), Donald Maka (8), Manasa Mataele (13), Ciarhan Matoe (3), Marty McKenzie (36), Scott Mellow (0), Kiniviliame Naholo (2), Waisake Naholo (35), Brayton Northcroft-Hill (0), Reuben O'Neill (18), Jesse Parete, Stephen Perofeta (21), Jayson Potroz (0), Leighton Price (19), Jared Proffit (15), Ricky Riccitelli (9), Xavier Roe (0), Bradley Slater (1), Aseali Sorovaki (2), Pita Sowakula (8), Kyle Stewart (0), Angus Ta'avao (31), Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (31), Seta Tamanivalu (52), Kane Thompson (6), Letu Vaeno (18), Tupou Vaai (0), Beaudein Waaka (19), Sean Wainui (34), Daniel Waite (1), Teihorangi Walden (0), Adrian Wyrill (15).