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PREVIEW: Waikato v Hawke's Bay

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Waikato v Hawke's Bay, Thursday, September 13, 7.35pm, FMG Stadium Waikato (Ranfurly Shield challenge)

Played: 49
Won: Waikato 27, Hawke's Bay 20, Draws 2
Last time: Waikato 46-22 Hawke's Bay, Hamilton, October 8 2016
Referee: Nick Briant

FORM

Waikato had a slow start to the season, suffering three losses to Manawatu (19-24), North Harbour (28-29) and Auckland (17-35) but have topped that by beating Wellington (43-31) and lifting the Ranfurly Shield off Taranaki (33-19). Hawke's Bay have only one loss, to their only Premiership opponent so far, Counties Manukau (25-29) while they have beaten Southland (31-10), Otago (31-25) and Bay of Plenty (29-28).

TWO CHANGES

Waikato have made two changes to the side which lifted the Shield on Sunday. Laghlan McWhannell will start at lock with James Tucker moving to the bench. In the backs Bailyn Sullivan will start on the right wing with Tyler Campbell moving to the reserves. Murray Iti and Mosese Dawai are named on the bench. Adam Burn will have reason to remember the occasion from his blindside flank berth, he will be playing his 50th game for the side.

ATTACK THE KEY

Captain Ash Dixon has been ruled out for the season and that is a key loss, especially in terms of experience which leaves only three players who were part of the last Hawke's Bay team to win the Shield in 2014 – Gareth Evans, Michael Allardice and Tom Parsons, although Evans needs to have recovered from an eye injury and Allardice needs to have recovered from a virus. However, halfback Brad Weber has had even later success in a Ranfurly Shield challenge, having been part of the Waikato team which relieved Hawke's Bay of the Shield in 2015. Coach Mark Ozich also knows what it is about having been an assistant coach when Southland challenged Counties Manukau for the Shield in 2014. "This is an exciting time for the team. We just have to go up there and attack," he said.

THE SCOOP

Hawke's Bay are the only team after four rounds this season with a 90 percent success rate at both the lineout (92 percent) and the scrum (93 percent).

TEAMS:

Waikato:
1.Ayden Johnstone, 2.Samisoni Taukei'aho, 3.Joshua Iosefa-Scott, 4.Tim Bond, 5.Laghlan McWhannell, 6.Adam Burn, 7.Mitch Jacobson, 8.Jordan Manihera, 9.Jack Stratton, 10.Fletcher Smith, 11.Sevu Reece, 12.Dwayne Sweeney, 13.Quinn Tupaea, 14.Bailyn Sullivan, 15.Mathew Lansdown.

Substitutes: 16.Sekope Lopeti Moli, 17.Haereiti Hetet, 18.Sosaia Fale, 19.James Tucker, 20.Murry Iti, 21.Raniera Takarangi, 22.Mosese Dawai, 23.Tyler Campbell.

Hawke's Bay: 1.Ben May, 2.Kianu Kereu-Symes, 3.Joe Apikotoa, 4.Tom Parsons, 5.Michael Allardice, 6.Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, 7.William Tremain, 8.Gareth Evans, 9.Brad Weber, 10.Tiaan Falcon, 11.Mason Emerson, 12.Pasqualle Dunn, 13.Stacy Ili, 14.Jonah Lowe, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.

Substitutes: 16.Jason Long, 17.Mark Braidwood, 18.Pouri Rakete-Stones, 19.Geoff Cridge, 20.Josh Kaifa, 21.Folau Fakatava, 22.Tofilau Sasa, 23.Michael Buckley.