Planet Rugby

Preview: Auckland v Canterbury

15th July 2011 10:24

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auckland v canterbury

Familiar foes: Aucks v Cantabs

New Zealand's provincial heavyweights go head to head in this mouth-watering ITM Cup opener at Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday.

A largely untried Canterbury begin their title defence against an All Blacks-laden Auckland side who will be hopeful of knocking down the three-time defending champs first time out.

Matches between Auckland and Canterbury are always fiercely contested and this one will be no different.

The two teams have met on 91 occasions with the Aucklanders leading the long rivalry by just six wins (46-40, five have ended in a draw). However, the men in blue and white stripes have not tasted victory in their last three meetings.

The hosts will fancy their chances this weekend though, and enter this opening round clash as favourites with Canterbury missing their usual dominance of All Blacks.

Only four Crusaders have been named by coach Rob Penney, while four club players will be making their ITM Cup debut for the visitors.

Colin Slade has been given another chance to build on his match fitness ahead of the All Blacks first Test of the year against Fiji in Dunedin.

He missed most of the Super Rugby season after breaking his jaw twice in Highlanders matches, and has played just 80 minutes - in two different games - since his return.

Veteran loose forward Reuben Thorne has been named on the bench. Also on the bench is Mark Swanepoel, the Western Force scrum-half who has joined the Canterbury squad this season

Despite Canterbury missing a number of their big guns for Sunday's clash, Auckland coach Mark Anscombe said he was expecting a huge challenge from the defending champions.

"There's no such thing as an easy Auckland v Canterbury game," he said.

"They're the two big provinces of New Zealand Rugby and when they go against one another, they normally throw everything at it so we're expecting a hard fought battle on Sunday."

Blues wing Joe Rokocoko has been named on the bench after only joining the team on Wednesday. The unwanted All Black will be riding pine whilst his Super Rugby team-mates Benson Stanley, Alby Mathewson, Chris Lowrey, Daniel Braid, Charlie Faumuina and Tom McCartney all start.

Brent Ward, who helped out the Crusaders this season, starts at full-back for Auckland.

Auckland: 15 Brent Ward, 14 Francis Saili, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Daniel Braid (c), 6 Onosa'i Auva', 5 Josh Townsend, 4 Steven Luatua, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Richard Haddon/Nathan Hughes, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Auvasa Faleali'i, 21 Piers Francis, 22 Joe Rokocoko, 23 Tevita Mailau.

Canterbury: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Patrick Osbourne, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Ash Parker (c), 5 Luke Romano, 4 Luke Katene, 3 Andrew Olorenshaw, 2 Paul Ngauamo, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Steve Fualau, 17 Paea Fa'anunu, 18 Reuben Thorne, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Mark Swanepoel, 21 Kolio Hifo, 22 Robbie Fruean, 23 Sam Cottom.

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