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Renewed hope for Auckland in 2018

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Monday, August 13, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

New coach Alama Ieremia and his coaching assistants Filo Tiatia, Tai Lavea and Sir Graham Henry have cast their net wide and there is an international mix to the side with Australian, Japanese, Canadian and American backgrounds for some of their players while there is a vote for the future with several New Zealand Under-20s players from the last two seasons.

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All Black Patrick Tuipulotu offers invaluable experience at lock and will be looking to more seasoned campaigners like prop Sam Prattley, flankers Blake Gibson and Dalton Papalii, No.8 Akira Ioane and backs TJ Faiane, Melani Nanai and Jordan Trainor to provide back-up in key areas.

Hooker Robbie Abel played nine games for Northland in 2013 and has played 16 Super Rugby games for the Brumbies.

Prop Taniela Koroi played 11 games for Wellington in 2013-14 and has played six Tests for Fiji.

Prop Ezekiel Lindenmuth was a member of the NZ Under-20s in 2017. Another young lock in the side is NZ Under-20s player Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa who has had prolific success at schools level with Mt Albert Grammar who he lad to the national title in 2016. His leadership also saw Auckland claim the Jock Hobbs Memorial national Under-19 tournament last year.

Loose forward Adrian Choat was a member of the New Zealand Under-20s at the 2017 world championship and will be joined by Hoskins Sotutu who played for the Blues in the Brisbane 10s earlier this year.

Before he heads off to play for Worcester lock Michael Fatialofa will look to help the side recover from last season. He brings plenty of experience to the heart of the scrum having played 36 games for Southland and 15 games for the Hurricanes.



Fellow lock Jack Whetton last played for Auckland in 2014, the same year he played six Super Rugby games for the Brumbies. But since then he has been in Britain where he was signed with Leicester Tigers and Yorkshire Carnegie and also in France with USO Nevers.

Lock Fa'atiga Lemalu is a home-grown product who played for Papatoetoe before taking up a contract in Japan with the Munakata Sanix Blues for four years while also playing for the Sunwolves in 2016. He has made 25 appearances for Samoa.

Playing on the blindside flank will be Canadian Evan Olmstead. He's played 23 times for his country since 2015. He had three seasons in Australia before signing with London Scottish and then having two seasons with Newcastle in Premiership rugby in England.

Halfback Jonathan Ruru was part of the Blues squad this year and brings experience from 21 games with Otago to the side. Also available will be former Counties Manukau player Desma Liaina.

Napier-born Mike Sosene, who previously played for Hawke's Bay, has played four Tests for the United States.

Jacob Umaga, nephew of Blues coach and former All Black Tana, is a five-eighths who has joined the side from Wasps where he is part of the club academy. He earlier had time with the Leicester Tigers junior academy.

Three-quarter Tanielu Tele'a was another member of the New Zealand Under-20s side this year, but also played for Samoa at the same tournament a year earlier.

All Blacks Sevens World Cup winning back Salesi Rayasi has joined the side having earlier played for Wellington and spending time at the Canterbury academy and offers power on the wings with Caleb Clarke and Joe Ravouvou both in the side.

Last year:
6th
Division: Premiership

The Auckland squad is (caps in brackets):

Sam Prattley (43), Jarred Adams (0), Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Marco Fepulea'i (1), Marcel Renata (21), Taniela Koroi (0), Ofa Tu'ungafasi (41), Mike Sosene, Robbie Abel, Leif Schwencke, Michael Fatialofa (19), Jamie Lane (2), Jack Whetton (20), Patrick Tuipulotu (21), Faatiga Lemalu (0), Dalton Papalii (4), Lyndon Dunshea (1), Blake Gibson (21), Adrian Choat (0), Akira Ioane (27), Taleni Seu (21), Hoskins Sotutu (0), Evan Olmstead (0), Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa (0), Jonathan Ruru (0), Leon Fukafuka (19), Desma Liaina, Harry Plummer (3), Daniel Kirkpatrick (0), Jacob Umaga (0), TJ Faiane (17), Tanielu Tele'a, Tumua Manu (4), Melani Nanai, (24), Joe Ravouvou (8), Salesi Rayasi (0), Caleb Clarke (3), AJ Lam, Jordon Trainor (8).