All Blacks Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua and Charles Piutau return to bolster an injured-affected Auckland team for their match against Northland tomorrow at Eden Park (kick off 7.35pm).
It is Auckland’s third match in ten days and their last of the regular season, a bonus-point victory would secure their position in the premiership semi-finals.
The team suffered a 41-18 loss to Counties-Manukau on Wednesday, with George Moala, Peter Saili and Joe Edwards all sustaining injuries that will seem them miss the Northland match.
“With those injuries they are forced changes to the team. Charlie (Faumuina) is back in the fold in the front row while Patrick was not made available for this game,” said Auckland coach Paul Feeney.
Jack Whetton takes Tuipulotu’s place in the second row while other changes see TJ Faiane and Leon Fukofuka both return to the starting line-up.
“The boys love playing at home and we have absolutely everything to play for, we don’t want our season to end now,” said Feeney.
“It will also be Tom McCartney and Gareth Anscombe’s last game on Eden Park for a long while, so we’ve got lots of reasons to perform tomorrow.”
“Matches between these two teams never tend to lack motivation though, they love driving down here to try knock us over so we know what they will bring,” said Feeney.
McCartney and Anscombe will play their last matches at Eden Park for Auckland before heading offshore to play in Ireland and Wales respectively.
The Auckland team to face Northland is
1. Sam Prattley (Pakuranga)
2. Tom McCartney (Pakuranga)
3. Charlie Faumuina (Papatoetoe)
4. Jack Whetton (Grammar TEC)
5. Liaki Moli (Manukau Rovers)
6. Steven Luatua (University)
7. Sean Polwart (University)
8. Blake Gibson (Ponsonby)
9. Leon Fukofuka (Marist)
10. Gareth Anscombe (Ponsonby)
11. Charles Piutau (Pakuranga)
12. TJ Faiane (Pakuranga)
13. Hadleigh Parkes (Grammar TEC)
14. Melani Nanai (Manukau Rovers)
15. Lolagi Visinia (Suburbs)
16. Gafatasi Su’a (Ponsonby)
17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Grammar TEC)
18. William Lloyd (Marist)
19. Scott Scrafton (Grammar TEC)
20. Junior Poluleuligaga (Papatoetoe)
21. Francis Saili (Marist)
22. Simon Hickey (Grammar TEC)
George Moala – x-rays and scans were clear. Now monitoring concussion symptoms but could play next week should Auckland progress to semi-finals.
Peter Saili – x-rays and initial scans were clear but further scans to take place tomorrow.
Joe Edwards – high ankle sprain with further scans tomorrow, likely to be out for 4+ weeks.