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PREVIEW: Auckland v Tasman

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Thursday, September 6, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Auckland v Tasman, Eden Park, Auckland, September 7, 7.45pm

Played: 10
Won: Auckland 5, Tasman 4, Draws 1
Last time: Auckland 18-31 Tasman, Nelson, October 8, 2018
Referee: Nick Hogan
QUICK TAP: SOUTHLAND V COUNTIES MANUKAU PREVIEW
FORM

It's a clash of the two unbeaten sides of the competition. Auckland started with a 23-19 win over Counties Manukau at home and then beat Northland 28-12 in Whangarei. In their most recent game they beat Waikato 35-17. Tasman made the best possible start when beating defending champion Canterbury 25-17 in Blenheim. They beat Southland 45-24 in the second week and followed that with a 32-20 win over North Harbour in Albany.

TUIPULOTU BACK

All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu will be in action for the first time for Auckland and will add much needed experience to the core of the forward pack. Evan Olmstead will have his first start on the blindside flank while halfback Jonathan Ruru will make his first start. Tanielu Tele'a could be set for his debut, from the bench. The New Zealand Under-20 player has recovered from a shoulder injury.
Coach Alama Ieremia said the game would be an acid test for his side. "Tasman are at the top of the table for a reason and have shown some good variation in what they're doing, and they're a squad that's been together for a long time," he said.

KEY CHANGES

Wyatt Crockett will start at loosehead prop for Tasman with Tim Perry on All Blacks' duty while hooker Ray Niuia has been given a start with Andrew Makalio on the bench. Sione Havili will start on the blindside flank with Ethan Blackadder moving back to No.8 in the absence of Shannon Frizell, also on Test duty. The only other change sees Alex Nankiville starting at centre with Levi Aumua on the bench.

DOUBLE HEADER

Auckland's Storm will play Tasman starting at 5.05pm on Friday. After their loss to Manawatu in the opening round Auckland have been strengthened by the return of several Black Ferns. Coach JP Fa'amausili said: "We always knew last weekend was going to be a tough game and so it proved. However, we also know that the season isn't won or lost in the opening weekend, so it's now up to us, starting on Friday to get back on track."

TEAMS:

Auckland: 1.Sam Prattley, 2.Robbie Abel, 3.Marcel Renata, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Jack Whetton, 6.Evan Olmstead, 7.Blake Gibson (captain), 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Jonathan Ruru, 10.Harry Plummer, 11.Salesi Rayasi, 12.TJ Faiane, 13.Tumua Manu, 14.Melani Nanai, 15.Jordan Trainor.

Substitutes: 16.Mike Sosene-Feagai, 17.Jarred Adams, 18.Marco Fepulea'i, 19. Fa'atiga Lemalu, 20.Dalton Palaplii, 21.Leon Fukofuka, 22.Jacob Umaga, 23.Tanielu Tele'a.

Tasman: 1.Wyatt Crockett, 2.Ray Niuia, 3.Tyrel Lomax, 4.Quinten Strange, 5.Pari Pari Parkinson, 6.Sione Havili, 7.Jed Brown, 8.Ethan Blackadder, 9.Finlay Christie, 10.Mitchell Hunt, 11.Solomon Alaimalo, 12.David Havili, 13.Alex Nankivell, 14.Tima Faingaanuku, 15.Will Jordan.

Substitutes: 16.Andrew Makalio, 17.Ryan Coxon, 18.Isaac Salmon, 19.Mike Curry, 20.Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 21.Jack Grooby, 22.Timothy O'Malley, 23.Levi Aumua.