Preview: Canterbury v Auckland

Date published: August 15 2014

Champions Canterbury will get their 2014 ITM Cup campaign underway when they host Auckland in Christchurch on Saturday.

Champions Canterbury will get their 2014 ITM Cup campaign underway when they host Auckland in Christchurch on Saturday.

Four players are in line to make their Canterbury debut, two in the starting fifteen and two amongst the replacements.

Prop Alex Hodgman will wear the number one jersey for his first Canterbury game, packing down alongside hooker Codie Taylor and tighthead prop Nepo Laulala. Siate Tokolahi will be providing prop cover from the bench and if he makes it on, will also earn his first Canterbury cap.

Scott Barrett will make his debut, partnering with Joel Everson at lock. The fourth potential debutant is loose forward Tom Sanders, who will provide cover for the loose forward trio of Matt Todd, Jed Brown and Luke Whitelock.

Canterbury's new captain, Willi Heinz, will start at scrum-half. Tyler Bleyendaal and Tom Taylor start at fly-half and inside centre respectively, while Richie Mo'unga steps into the full-back role. Adam Whitelock will play at outside centre and Johnny McNicholl and Patrick Osborne take the wings.

Meanwhile, Auckland coach Paul Feeney has named an experienced team for this clash. Charles Piutau has been released from the All Blacks squad to start on the wing, while Francis Saili and Gareth Anscombe both return to the Blue and White hoops.

“Gareth is back from injury, Francis is back and you've also got Charles back from the All Blacks,” said Feeney.

“They're all enthusiastic and looking forward to playing alongside their mates.

12 of the starting XV were involved in the 2014 Super Rugby season.

Feeney said the team is looking forward to the big first up match.

“It's great to get Canterbury early on because it's a litmus test for us,” he added.

“They're the benchmark so we'll get a great gauge on where we are at.

“I think we've had a good build up. The boys know it's a big challenge against Canterbury but that's why they play, for the big games,” said Feeney.

The teams:

Canterbury: 15 Richie Mo'unga, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Adam Whitelock, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Jed Brown, 6 Matt Todd, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Joel Everson, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Matt Symons, 19 Tom Sanders, 20 Mitchell Drummond, 21 Rob Thompson, 22 Milford Keresoma.

Auckland: 15 Hadleigh Parkes, 14 Lolagi Visinia, 13 George Moala, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Junior Poluleuligaga, 8 Peter Saili, 7Sean Polwart, 6 Joe Edwards, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Liaki Moli,3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Gafatasi Su'a, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Will Lloyd, 19 Blake Gibson, 20 Leon Fukofuka/Wayne Ngaluafe, 21 Simon Hickey, Ben Lam/Vince Aso.

Date: Saturday, August 16
Kick-off: 16:35 local (05:35 BST, 04:35 GMT)
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Referee: Garratt Williamson