Auckland coach Wayne Pivac has made five changes to his XV for their clash with Taranaki in New Plymouth, with Piri Weepu in the side.
Auckland head coach Wayne Pivac has made five changes to his line-up for Saturday's clash with Taranaki in New Plymouth, with Piri Weepu in the XV.
A number of those changes are injury enforced, while a short three-day turnaround between fixtures has prompted coach Pivac to act.
Blues props Sam Prattley and Angus Ta'avao come into the front-row in place of Pauliasi Manu and Ofa Tu'ungafasi, while Luke Braid starts at openside ahead of Sean Polwart who has had a heavy workload over the last few games.
Junior Poluleuligaga dislocated his shoulder against Counties Manukau on Wednesday so veteran All Black scrum-half Piri Weepu claims the number nine jersey, while Vince Aso will make his first start for Auckland in place of George Moala who has a quad haematoma.
Sevens star Orene Ai'i has turned back the clock and is poised to make his first appearance for Auckland since 2005 after being named on the bench, with coach Pivac admitting that playing their third ITM Cup game in seven days posed a big challenge for his side.
“It would have been a lot bigger had we dropped the Bay of Plenty game or the Counties game or both, so getting a couple of wins and not playing as well as we would have liked as a group the guys are pretty determined to get down there and put together an 80 minute performance,” he said.
“We're against the odds with a three day turnaround and having to travel down there against a Taranaki team that's hurting. It's a must-win game for them so it's going to be a good occasion.”
Meanwhile, Taranaki have made three changes to the starting side which beat Southland in Invercargill last Saturday. Ryan Cocker will make his ITM Cup debut as tighthead prop, Doug Tietjens will start at openside flank and Seta Tamanivalu gets a run at outside centre.
Taranaki: 15 Kurt Baker, 14 Jackson Ormond, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Isaia Tuifua, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Daniel Brooks, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Doug Tietjens, 6 Kane Barrett (capt), 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ryan Cocker, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Carl Carmichael.
Replacements: 16 Timo Tutavaha, 17 Sione Lea, 18 Mitchell Crosswell, 19 Berny Hall, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Rick McKenna, 22 Ope Peleseuma.
Auckland: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Vince Aso, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Hadleigh Parkes (capt), 11 Tenina Sauileoge, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Joe Edwards, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Gafatasi Su'a, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Jack Whetton, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Wayne Ngaluafe, 21 Orene Ai'i, 22 Saleaula Silipa.
Date: Saturday, September 7
Kick-off: 14:35 local (02:35 BST, 01:35 GMT)
Venue: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Referee: Chris Pollock