Auckland coach Wayne Pivac has made just one change to his starting XV for Friday's ITM Cup match against the Steelers at Eden Park.
Auckland coach Wayne Pivac has made just one change to his starting XV for Friday's ITM Cup match against Counties Manuaku at Eden Park
Ofa Tu'ungafasi will start at tighthead prop as Angus Ta'avao shifts to loosehead and Pauliasi Manu moves to the bench.
Sean Brookman has recovered from injury to be named on the pine in place of Nathan Hughes, while halfback Scott Patterson is included in the squad for the first time as Auvasa Faleali'i drops out of the 22 altogether.
Daniel Braid remains on the bench but Pivac said he would be looking to give the veteran flanker more game-time on Friday.
“We'll be looking at getting him on the field at about the 40 minute mark so that's the plan for this week and we're just taking it very cautiously, listening to the medical staff as we'd hate for that groin injury to flare up again,” Pivac said.
“He's on 95 games and has calculated that if he plays every game for the remainder of the season he'll get to 100 so that's obviously what he's keen to do and we're keen, where we can, to manage him through that process.”
With both Auckland and Counties Manukau boasting potent backlines, the stage looks set for a thrilling game of rugby, but Pivac warned the looming wet weather may have an impact on the game-plan.
“The weather forecast I have isn't the best and I think both teams would like a dry day but I don't think we're going to get that so we're just having a look at how we want to play the game and no doubt they'll be doing the same thing.
“There are two teams that are playing with a bit of confidence, let's just hope the weather doesn't spoil that.”
Auckland: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Dave Thomas, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Joe Edwards, 7 Sean Polwart, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Andrew van der Heijeden, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Angus Ta'avau.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Sean Brookman, 19 Daniel Braid, 20 Scott Patterson, 21 Simon Hickey, 22 Lolagi Visinia.
Counties Manuaku: tbc