Preview: Auckland v Northland

Date published: September 18 2013

Auckland fly-half Simon Hickey has overcome a groin strain and will start against Northland in their fixture at Eden Park on Thursday.

Auckland fly-half Simon Hickey has overcome a groin strain and will start against Northland in their ITM Cup fixture at Eden Park on Thursday.

The inclusion of 19-year-old Hickey is one of four changes to the XV in the wake of Auckland's disappointing 42-24 loss to Waikato last week.

“The reality is we've had five wins and a loss so those points are on the board,” head coach Wayne Pivac told the Auckland Rugby website.

“What we have to do is get back to the sort of form and preparation we had for the Taranaki game and that's certainly what we talked about yesterday. We had a decent day which was all classroom-based looking at our game very hard and as a result we've made a couple of changes for Thursday.”

Sam Prattley replaces Pauliasi Manu at loosehead prop, while Jack Whetton will make his first start for Auckland ahead of Patrick Tuipulotu at lock.

18-year-old winger Vince Aso returns to the team and Hickey takes over the reigns at fly-half in place of Orene Ai'i.

“Orene's got a lot of experience but Simon brings a different dimension to the game. He's been steering the ship well for the first part of the season and it's certainly good to have him back,” Pivac said.

Grammar Carlton hooker Nathan Vella is named on the bench along with his club team-mate Kara Pyror who is poised to make his Auckland debut and go head-to-head with his brother Daniel.

Meanwhile, Northland have left Rupeni Caucaunibuca out of their squad for the game so Rene Ranger switches wings, while Warren Dunn replaces Viliami Tahitu'a at inside centre.

Northland are sitting bottom of the ITM Cup Championship on eight points from five games after what's been a disappointing start to their season.

The teams:

Auckland: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Vince Aso, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Hadleigh Parkes (c), 11 George Moala, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Sean Polwart, 6 Joe Edwards, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi. 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Wayne Ngaluafe, 22 Tenina Sauileoge.

Northland: 15 Ben Seymour, 14 Mathew Wright, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Warren Dunn, 11 Rene Ranger (c), 10 Daniel Hawkins. 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Jake Paringatai, 7 Daniel Pryor, 6 Roy Griffin, 5 Tom Murday, 4 David Morgan, 3 Will-Griff, 2 Matt Moulds, 1 Ross Wright.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Bryce Williams, 19 Ben Berridge, 20 Mac Sykes, 21 Viliami Tahitu'a, 22 Mateo Malupo.

Date: Thursday, September 19
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Shane McDermott