All Black lock Patrick Tuipulotu returns to the Auckland starting line-up to face North Harbour at Eden Park this Saturday (kick off 5.35pm).
Tuipulotu’s inclusion is one of a number of changes, with Hadleigh Parkes and Peter Saili returning from injury and TJ Faiane promoted for his first start.
Auckland coach Paul Feeney said it was great to have Tuipulotu back in the team.
“We love having him here. Patrick has been training with us this week and will add great physicality to the pack on Saturday.”
The promotion of Faiane to second five-eighths has seen a number of changes in the backline with Feeney moving Gareth Anscombe to first five-eighths and Parkes returning from injury to play at centre.
“TJ is an exciting young player and his performance against Bay of Plenty couldn’t be ignored and so he’s been rewarded for that.
“Hadleigh has a huge amount experience and his communication and organisation will be vital while Gareth slots in at first five. It’s about surrounding TJ with experienced players.”
The changes see Francis Saili drop out of the match day 22.
Feeney said the team will expect a big challenge from North Harbour, who are coming off their first win of the season.
“Harbour are better than what the points table would suggest. They have gone close on a number of occasions so the results haven’t shown their intent.
“In the context of our season this is a must win for the campaign.”
Both teams will join tomorrow morning to celebrate their rivalry at the Battle of the Bridge breakfast at Eden Park.
Auckland team named to face North Harbour
Saturday 20 September
Eden Park, kick off 5.35pm
1. Sam Prattley (Pakuranga)
2. Tom McCartney (Pakuranga)
3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Grammar TEC)
4. Patrick Tuipulotu (Ponsonby)
5. Liaki Moli (Manukau Rovers)
6. Blake Gibson (Ponsonby)
7. Sean Polwart (University)
8. Peter Saili (Marist)
9. Junior Poluleuligaga (Papatoetoe)
10. Gareth Anscombe (Ponsonby)
11. George Moala (Grammar TEC)
12. TJ Faiane (Pakuranga)
13. Hadleigh Parkes (Grammar TEC)
14. Ben Lam (Grammar TEC)
15. Lolagi Visinia (Suburbs)
16. Gafatasi Su’a (Ponsonby)
17. Nick Barrett
18. Jack Whetton (Grammar TEC)
19. Joe Edwards (Pakuranga)
20. Leon Fukofuka (Marist)
21. Melani Nanai (Manukau Rovers)
22. Simon Hickey (Grammar TEC)