Auckland coach Paul Feeney has named an experienced team to face Canterbury in the first round of the ITM Cup in Christchurch this Saturday (kick off 4.35pm).
All Black Charles Piutau has been released from the national squad to start on the wing, while Francis Saili and Gareth Anscombe both return to the Blue and White hoops.
“Gareth is back from injury, Francis is back and you’ve also got Charles back from the All Blacks. They’re all enthusiastic and looking forward to playing alongside their mates,” said Feeney.
12 of the starting XV were involved in the 2014 Super Rugby season.
Feeney said the team is looking forward to the big first up match.
“It’s great to get Canterbury early on because it’s a litmus test for us. They’re the benchmark so we’ll get a great gauge on where we are at.
“I think we’ve had a good build up. The boys know it’s a big challenge against Canterbury but that’s why they play, for the big games,” said Feeney.
While no debutants have been named in the starting XV, there are four players on the bench that will be hoping for their first Auckland cap.
Auckland team to face Canterbury
1. Sam Prattley (Pakuranga)
2. Tom McCartney (Pakuranga) – captain
3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Grammar TEC)
4. Liaki Moli (Manukau Rovers)
5. Jack Whetton (Grammar TEC)
6. Joe Edwards (Pakuranga)
7. Sean Polwart (University)
8. Peter Saili (Marist)
9. Junior Poluleuligaga (Papatoetoe)
10. Gareth Anscombe (Ponsonby)
11. Charles Piutau (Pakuranga)
12. Francis Saili (Marist)
13. George Moala (Grammar TEC)
14. Lolagi Visinia (Suburbs)/ Ben Lam (Grammar TEC)
15. Hadleigh Parkes (Grammar TEC)
16. Gafatasi Su’a (Ponsonby)
17. Fraser Armstrong (Pakuranga)
18. Will Lloyd (Marist)
19. Blake Gibson (Ponsonby)
20. Leon Fukofuka (Marist)/ Wayne Ngaluafe (Ponsonby)
21. Simon Hickey (Grammar TEC)
22. Ben Lam (Grammar TEC)/ Vince Aso (Ponsonby)
*Fraser Armstrong, Will Lloyd, Blake Gibson and Leon Fukofuka set to debut off the bench.