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Preview: Manawatu v Canterbury

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Manawatu have struggled to make an impact in the ITM Cup Premiership and it won't be any easier when hosting Canterbury in Palmerston North on Thursday evening.

Injuries to key personnel have heightened the pressure on the home team while Canterbury have been able to afford to rest some key players for the tough grind ahead.

Form: Life in the Premiership has proven tough for Manawatu and they are winless from their three games to date. Their closest result was in their opening game when losing in Pukekohe to Counties Manukau 35-36. They lost at home to Waikato 21-28 while Tasman also enjoyed a 41-21 win.

Canterbury, on the other hand, look like a team determined to reclaim the crown they lost after six years to Taranaki. Their record includes a 38-24 win over Otago, a 20-15 win over Counties Manukau and Auckland 27-21, two of the three wins being over Premiership sides.

Played: 38

Wins: Manawatu 9, Canterbury 27, Drawn 2

Last match: Canterbury 72, Manawatu 2, Addington 2013

Squad Update: In the absence of Callum Gibbins, who is injured, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis has been named for the first time. Stepping into Gibbins' role will be Antonio Kiri Kiri. Among the backs Jason Emery is moving into second five-eighths while Jaxon Tagavaitau will start for the first time this year at centre.

Hamish Northcott will start on the bench while joining him there will be Bryce Henderson who will have the chance to make a debut.

Canterbury have opted to rest props Daniel Lienert-Brown and Joe Moody with Alex Hodgman and Siate Tokolahi starting in Palmerston North. Ben Matwijow will lock with Dominic Bird while Tom Sanders has recovered from concussion to play on the blindside flank.

Tom Taylor will play first five-eighths with Richard Mo'unga rested while wing Tulolo Tulolo is in for Patrick Osborne to make his debut.

Teams:

Manawatu: 1.Adrian Barone, 2.Rob Foreman, 3.Michael Alaalatoa, 4.Fraser Stone, 5.Tom Parsons, 6.Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (captain), 7.Antonio Kiri Kiri, 8.James Oliver, 9.Kayne Hammingon, 10.Otere Black, 11.Ambrose Curtis, 12.Jason Emery, 13.Jaxon Tagavaitau, 14. Semisi Masirewa, 15.Hamiora Thomas.

Reserves: 16.Nick Grogan, 17.Tim Cadwallader, 18.Fraser Armstrong, 19.Valentino Mapapalangi, 20.Bryce Henderson, 21.Jamie Booth, 22.Hamish Northcott, 23.Nathan Tudreu.

Canterbury: 1.Alex Hodgman, 2.Ben Funnell, 3.Siate Tokolahi, 4.Ben Matwijow, 5.Dominic Bird, 6.Tom Sanders, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Luke Whitelock (captain), 9.Mitchell Drummond, 10.Tom Taylor, 11.Tulolo Tulolo, 12.Rob Thompson, 13.Ryan Crotty, 14.Johnny McNicholl, 15.Cameron McIntyre.

Reserves: 16.Ged Robinson, 17.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18.Joe Moody, 19.JJ Manning, 20.Jed Brown, 21.Jack Stratton, 22.Marshall Suckling, 23.Milford Keresoma.


Key Players: It's a tall order for Manawatu in the loose without Callum Gibbins and his replacement, both as captain and flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis and he will need plenty of support from James Oliver who will be playing his 50th game in the Championship. Jason Emery's move alongside Otere Black in the five-eighths will be an interesting move and Ambrose Curtis should have an interesting tussle with Johnny McNicholl who was a big contributor in Canterbury's win over Auckland.

The change in Canterbury's front row will put some extra responsibility on Ben Funnell's shoulders while the return of Tom Sanders will provide plenty of interest in how the loose forward combination works for the visitors.

Tom Taylor's choice at first five-eighths could make a formidable backline for Manawatu to deal with, especially with Rob Thompson and Ryan Crotty linked in midfield.