Planet Rugby

Preview: Auckland v Canterbury

26th September 2013 11:35

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Ryan Crotty for Canterbury

50 up: Ryan Crotty

Canterbury coach Scott Robertson has made seven changes to his starting line-up ahead of Saturday's clash with Auckland at Eden Park.

In the front-row, the props alternate from Paea Fa'anunu and Sione Faletau to Joe Moody and Nepo Laulala after their 72-7 win over Manawatu.

Matt Symons steps into the second-row position alongside Joel Everson, and Luke Katene takes a spot on the replacements bench for the fixture.

George Whitelock is back at number seven and will also captain the side.

In the backline, Willi Heinz swaps with Andy Ellis at nine while Adam Whitelock returns to centre, which allows Ryan Crotty to move back into 12.

Crotty will also mark a significant milestone on Saturday, playing his 50th game for Canterbury, with Robertson delighted for his impressive centre.

"Crotts is such a Canterbury stalwart," he said. "He is a superb player, but also an outstanding team man. His team-mates hold him in such high regard and they will be determined to make him proud when they join him for his fiftieth match on Saturday night."

Meanwhile, Auckland head coach Wayne Pivac has made three changes to the starting XV for Saturday's home clash.

In the absence of Piri Weepu who is away with the All Blacks in Argentina, Wayne Ngaluafe starts at scrum-half while Tenina Sauileoge is named on the right wing in place of the injured Vince Aso.

After coming off the bench to make his Auckland debut last week, Kara Pryor will start at openside as Sean Polwart switches to the blindside to replace the injured Joe Edwards.

Pivac said he was looking forward to watching the athletic Pryor in action in such a big match.

"Kara is very quick - you could throw him on the wing because he's got a lot of pace," he said.

"He pops up in all the right places, he's not overly big in stature but certainly he punches above his weight. He got a start in the pre-season and played very well and he got an opportunity to come off the bench in a bit of a cameo last week so it's going to be interesting to see how he goes and he's certainly looking forward to the challenge."

With Edwards (dislocated shoulder), Aso (hamstring strain) and Patrick Tuipulotu (broken jaw) all out for the season, youngsters So'otala Fa'aso'o and Melani Nanai will get the opportunity to make their Auckland debuts after being named on the bench.

Pivac said the depth of his squad would certainly be tested against the Red and Blacks.

"It's a frustration and just the nature of the game, you can't do anything about it," he said.

The teams:

Auckland: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Tenina Sauileoge, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Hadleigh Parkes (capt), 11 George Moala, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Wayne Ngaluafe, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Kara Pryor, 6 Sean Polwart, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 So'otala Fa'aso'o, 19 Sean Brookman, 20 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 21 Junior Poluleuligaga, 22 Melani Nanai.

Canterbury: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Adam Whitelock, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Milford Keresoma, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 George Whitelock, 6 Luke Whitelock, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Joel Everson, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Paea Fa'anunu, 18 Luke Katene, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Andrew Ellis, 21 Rob Thompson, 22 Jamie Verran.

Date: Saturday, September 28
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Nick Briant

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