Preview: Auckland v Bay of Plenty

30th Aug 2013, 10:19

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Blast from the past: Keven Mealamu in ITM Cup action

Blast from the past: Keven Mealamu in ITM Cup action

Auckland head coach Wayne Pivac has made seven changes to the team that will face Bay of Plenty in the ITM Cup on Saturday.

Auckland coach Wayne Pivac has made seven changes to the team that will face Bay of Plenty on Saturday.

The men in blue and white are in the middle of a run which sees them play three matches in the space of 12 days and as a result Pivac has shuffled his starting XV to keep his players fresh.

All Black hooker Keven Mealamu comes into the front-row to make his first appearance for Auckland in five years. It's all change up front, with props Sam Prattley and Angus Ta'avao also brought into the side.

Among the loose forwards, Sean Polwart moves to the blindside to replace the injured Joe Edwards with Luke Braid turning out on the openside.

There is only one change in the back-line where Charles Piutau, who like Mealamu was released from the All Blacks squad, comes in at full-back.

Auckland have started the season with wins over North Harbour and Manawatu, but have yet to fully hit their straps.

Like their opponents, Bay of Plenty have been patchy first up with a narrow 29-32 defeat to Otago before managing a come-from-behind 24-20 victory over Hawke's Bay.

The Steamers welcome back All Black Sam Cane to form a potent back-row combination with Reds flanker Beau Robinson and number eight Carl Axtens.

Bay of Plenty will have to do without Culum Retallick though, with the lock suspended for two weeks for foul play.

Auckland: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 George Moala, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Hadleigh Parkes (c), 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Sean Polwart, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Jack Whetton, 19 Sean Brookman, 20 Junior Poluleiligaga, 21 Vince Aso, 22 Tenina Sauileoge.

Bay of Plenty: 15 Dave Thomas, 14 Tino Nemani, 13 Brett Mather, 12 Sam Beard, 11 Kimami Sitauti, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Samisoni Fisilau, 8 Carl Axtens, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Sam Cane, 5 Keepa Mewett, 4 Yohan Bardoul, 3 Pingi Talaapitaga, 2 Joe Royal, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Beau Williams, 19 Joe Tupe, 20 Josh Hall, 21 Nick Evemy, 22, Junior Tofa-Va'a.