Waikato coach Chris Gibbes has made eight changes to his starting XV for Wednesday's Ranfurly Shield challenge against Taranaki.
Waikato head coach Chris Gibbes has made eight changes for Wednesday's Ranfurly Shield challenge against Taranaki at Yarrow Stadium.
Up front, prop Toby Smith and hooker Marcel Cummings-Toone make a return from injury, as does Romana Graham in the second-row.
Loose forward Matt Vant Leven is also back.
There is a change to the halves combination with Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Sam Christie into the line-up at scrum-half and fly-half respectively.
Tim Mikkelson returns to the wing and Trent Renata is back in the number 15 jersey.
Gibbes said his team is preparing well for the shield challenge.
“We showed a lot of character in our win over Tasman and we will take confidence from that performance into this game,” he said.
Waikato will be hoping to write another chapter in their proud Ranfurly Shield history.
“Ranfurly Shield games are easy to get motivated for and the players are all excited about the opportunity,” Gibbes said.
“This is Waikato's first crack at the shield since 2007 so we are itching to get down to New Plymouth and get stuck in.”
Meanwhile, Jarrad Hoeata returns to the Taranaki pack, with loose forwards Kane Barrett and Blade Thomson bracketed.
With the short turnaround from Saturday's 59-18 win over Manawatu, Taranaki coach Colin Cooper has opted for a five-two split on the reserves bench.
“We're expecting a torrid time up front. There's a lot on the game for both teams. They're desperate for the win and we need the win to hold on to the Shield,” Cooper revealed.
“We're not even looking ahead. The Shield is the number one priority.”
Taranaki: 15 Kurt Baker, 14 Andre Taylor, 13 Willie Rickards, 12 Jayden Hayward, 11 Frazier Climo, 10 James Marshall, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Blade Thomson/Kane Barrett, 7 Chris Walker, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Craig Clarke (capt), 3 Michael Bent, 2 Laurence Corlett, 1 Chris King.
Replacements: 16 Timo Tutavaha, 17 Carl Carmichael, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Kane Barrett/Blade Thomson, 20 Bernie Hall, 21 Brett Goodin, 22 Jack Cameron.
Waikato: 15 Trent Renata,14 Declan O'Donnell, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tim Mikkelson, 10 Sam Christie, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Alex Bradley (c), 7 Zak Hohneck, 6 Matt Vant Leven, 5 Sam Kilgour, 4 Romana Graham, 3 Ben May, 2 Marcel Cummings-Toone, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Vance Elliott, 17 Latu Talakai, 18 Anthony Wise, 19 Rory Grice, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Piers Francis, 22 Joe Webber.
Date: Wednesday, October 3
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Referee: Bryce Lawrence