Planet Rugby

Preview: Taranaki v Auckland

29th July 2011 13:52

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Isaia Toeava auckland

Auckland return: Isaia Toeava

All Black Isaia Toeava will make his long awaited return to action from the bench on Sunday when Auckland take on Taranaki at Yarrow Stadium.

Toeava has not played a match since the Blues' Super Rugby encounter with the Highlanders in Round 11 on April 29, after discovering a previous stress fracture in his hip had reoccurred.

The 25-year-old admitted it had been tough journey back to full fitness but he was relishing the opportunity of pulling on the Auckland jersey on Sunday.

"It's been a long time but the body's alright at the moment. The hip's feeling good so I'm looking forward to pulling on the blue and white hoops again," he said.

"It's a team I love playing for and growing up as a young boy I always wanted to play for Auckland so it's great to be back."

Toeava returned to Auckland from Wellington after being released from the All Blacks camp, and he is expected to play 40 minutes off the bench against the Amber and Blacks.

One of the form backs in New Zealand during the Super Rugby competition before he was sidelined through injury, Toeava said he had not set himself any specific targets but just wanted to concentrate on getting the basics right.

"It's just getting out there, getting the feel of it again and doing the basics right - that'll be my main focus and doing the job for the boys."

But Auckland head coach Mark Anscombe has tempered high expectations of the star fullback after he only returned to training on Thursday morning.

"I think we have to be patient with what we expect from him," Anscombe said.

"I think it's been 14 weeks and he's looking for a game. It's a long time out to expect him to come back and carve up. Hopefully he can get through 40 minutes and that will be good for him."

With Auckland enjoying a rare eight day turnaround following their last match against Wellington, Anscombe has made just one change to the starting XV for this weekend's game against Taranaki.

Chris Lowrey has overcome the concussion he suffered against Otago and will move into lock, replacing Josh Townsend who fractured his small toe in the match against Wellington.

Anscombe said he was wary of a strong Taranaki outfit who had a record of causing Auckland plenty of difficulties.

"They've been a bit of a bogey team for us over the years," he said.

"If you look at the last ten years they've had some good wins over Auckland so they enjoy playing Auckland and they back themselves to get into us so we're looking forward to a tough battle down in the Naki."

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

Taranaki: tbc

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PosTeamPPts
1Taranaki832
2Tasman832
3Canterbury830
4Auckland720
5Waikato816