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5 players to watch: Auckland

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Sunday, August 4, 2019    allblacks.com    Getty Images


Caleb Clarke
An age-grade superstar, dynamic outside back Caleb Clarke was still eligible for the New Zealand Under 20s this year but was selected for the Blues in Super Rugby instead. Featuring on the left wing, Clarke had an impressive campaign for the Blues, scoring three tries from eight appearances and beating 14 defenders. At 107kg, Clarke is an imposing physical specimen and hard to put down when in full flight. Already an experienced player for his young age, expect the 20-year-old flyer to make his presence felt in 2019. 

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Scott Scrafton
Blighted by injuries over the past couple of years, seasoned lock Scott Scrafton will be hoping for plenty of game time in the Mitre 10 Cup. The 2m tall second rower made his debut for Auckland in 2014 and has also been a constant in the Blues squad since his Super Rugby debut in 2016. Despite some injury niggles, Scrafton made eight appearances for the Blues this season and formed a strong combination with Patrick Tuipulotu. A workhorse and genuine leader in the group, Scrafton will play a crucial role if the Blues are to go back-to-back in 2019.
TJ Faiane
Dubbed a quiet achiever by coaches and pundits alike, TJ Faiane just seems to get better every year. As a leader, Faiane galvanised the Auckland squad last year as they won their first title in a decade and then went onto become a key cog in the Blues backline. A proud Aucklander, Faiane has helped Auckland instil pride back into their jersey and would love nothing more than to lead his side to back-to-back titles in 2019.

Tanielu Tele’a
An excitement machine, potent mid-fielder Tanielu Tele’a will be hoping to replicate his Super Rugby form in the Mitre 10 Cup. Although the Blues had another largely disappointing campaign, Tele’a was one of their best and made plenty of fans with his direct ball-running and powerful defence. A cool and calm player who seems to have plenty of time, Tele’a is a real name for the future.

Harry Plummer
The last 12 months have been huge in the career of 21-year-old playmaker Harry Plummer. Virtually unknown at the start of last year, Plummer made his mark for the New Zealand Under 20s before leading Auckland to their first Mitre 10 Cup Premiership title in a decade. His form was rewarded with a Blues contract where he played 16 games and shared the first five-eighth duties with Otere Black. A highly skilled tactician and slick distributor, Plummer will be looking to get the most out of Auckland’s highly talented backline.

2019 Auckland Mitre 10 Cup squad:

Robbie Abel (College Rifles)
Leni Apisai (Loaned)
Michael Lea (Marist)
Jarred Adams (Suburbs)
Rob Cobb (Ponsonby)
Marco Fepulea’i (Ponsonby)
Alex Hodgman (Suburbs)
Taniela Koroi (Marist)
Ezekiel Lindenmuth (Suburbs)
Marcel Renata (University)
Angus Ta’avao (Eden)
Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Grammar TEC)
Jamie Lane (Ponsonby)
Scott Scrafton (Grammar TEC)
Peter-Chanel Tagaloa (Marist)
Patrick Tuipulotu (Ponsonby)
Jack Whetton (Grammar TEC)
Lyndon Dunshea (University)
Cameron Suafoa (College Rifles)
Adrian Choat (Waitemata)
Blake Gibson (Ponsonby)
Dalton Papalii (Pakuranga)
Akira Ioane (Ponsonby)
Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa (Ponsonby)
Hoskins Sotutu (Marist)
Desma Liaina (Eden)
Jonathan Ruru (University)
Danny Tusitala (Ponsonby)
Daniel Kirkpatrick (University)
D’Angelo Leuila (Papatoetoe)
Harry Plummer (Grammar TEC)
TJ Faiane (Pakuranga)
Tumua Manu (College Rifles)
Tanielu Tele’a (Marist)
Caleb Clarke (Suburbs)
Kurt Heatherley (Loaned)
Rieko Ioane (Ponsonby)
AJ Lam (Grammar TEC)
Salesi Rayasi (Marist)
Jordan Trainor (Ponsonby)
*One Back to be added