Ranfurly Shield holders Waikato will be led by centre Jackson Willison in their opening game of the ITM Cup season, against Northland.
Ranfurly Shield holders Waikato will be led by centre Jackson Willison in their opening game of the ITM Cup year, against Northland in Hamilton.
Willison skippers in the absence of number eight Matt Vant Leven while tighthead prop Ben Tameifuna is also unavailable due to resting.
“We are excited to finally start the 2013 ITM Cup campaign in front of our home fans at Waikato Stadium,” explained head coach Johnny Walters.
“It is obviously important for us to hit the ground running as we are straight into a Ranfurly Shield challenge. Northland beat us here last year and with the added incentive of the shield we are under no illusions as to how tough this match is going to be.
“It has been a bit tough with players coming back slowly after Super Rugby and not having all our Chiefs boys available yet, but we are happy with our preparation and have full confidence in the 22 we have selected for this match.”
Northland meanwhile are skippered by Rene Ranger who lines up at centre alongside Derek Carpenter. Fijian Rupeni Caucaunibuca is not included in the playing 22.
The Championship visitors will be looking to spring a surprise against the Mooloos, with back-row duo Jack Ram and Jake Paringatai key to their hopes of a win at Waikato Stadium.
Waikato: 15 Trent Renata, 14 Tim Mikkelson, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Joe Webber, 10 Sam Christie, 9 Kylem O'Donnell, 8 Adam Burn, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Rory Grice, 5 Sam Kilgour, 4 Brian Alainu'uese, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Vance Elliott, 17 Latu Talakai, 18 Chris Middleton, 19 Jono Armstrong, 20 Mick Snowden, 21 Joe Perawiti, 22 Semisi Masirewa.
Northland: 15 Mathew Wright, 14 Whiria Meltzer, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Mateo Malupo, 10 Ben Seymour, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Jake Paringatai, 7 Jack Ram, 6 Dan Pryor, 5 Bryce Williams, 4 Tom Murday, 3 Scott Vessey, 2 Ross Wright, 1 Bronson Murray.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Justin Davies, 18 Owen Pihema, 19 William Whetton, 20 Mac Sykes, 21 Daniel Hawkins, 22 Warren Dunn.
Date: Saturday, August 17
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Waikato Stadium