Taranaki coach Colin Cooper has made a whopping nine changes to his team for Saturday's ITM Cup hit-out against Northland.
Taranaki coach Colin Cooper has made a whopping nine changes to his team for Saturday's ITM Cup hit-out against Northland in Whangarei.
Cooper has axed several players following Wednesday's 43-32 defeat to Auckland – the Amber and Blacks' first defeat of the season – whilst some are injury-enforced.
A revamped Taranaki forwards pack featuring five changes will run out against the Taniwha, who are chasing a hat-trick of wins after knocking over North Harbour and Tasman in their previous two outings.
Loose forward Blade Thomson is replaced by fit-again Kane Barrett while Jarrad Hoeata switches from the blindside to number eight. Scott Waldrom comes in on the openside at the expense of Chris Walker.
The other changes in the pack are at lock with James Broadhurst getting the nod ahead of Jason Eaton, Michael Bent back at tighthead and Carl Carmichael coming into the mix at loosehead to ease Chris King's workload.
In the backs, Chris Smylie and James Marshall are reunited at halfback and Willie Rickards makes a return at outside centre – all three played in last Saturday's Ranfurly Shield defence against Canterbury.
Isaia Tuifua and Seta Tamanivalu have been bracketed on the bench as full-back Kurt Baker tries to overcome a knock to the knee.
Taranaki currently share the lead in the Premiership with Wellington and Auckland (all on 19 points), while Northland sit fourth on thh Division table. A win for the visitors will give them the overall lead in their group, and Northland will jump to second should they take the spoils.
Taranaki: 15 Kurt Baker, 14 Jackson Ormond, 13 Willie Rickards, 12 Jayden Hayward, 11 Frazier Climo, 10 James Marshall, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Jarrad Hoeata, 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Kane Barrett, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Michael Bent, 2 Timo Tutavaha, 1 Carl Carmichael.
Replacements: 16 Sione Lea, 17 Chris King, 18 Jason Eaton, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Jack Cameron, 22 Isaia Tuifua/Seta Tamanivalu.