Highlanders prop Ma'afu Fia was to play his first rugby in a month for Manawatu against Tasman at Nelson tonight.
Cleared medically after his collapse at training in Dunedin, he has been itching to get back with his Turbos mates. Last Friday he was wired up and doing sideline duties during the Turbos' 29-28 pre-season win over Wellington.
He will start at tighthead prop and beside him Nick Grogan will start at hooker instead of Rob Foreman.
Fia is a valuable commodity for the Turbos as the experienced tighthead, backed up by youngster Tim Cadwallader.
All 24 fit players will get a run. Again there will be rolling subs.
Bay of Plenty acquisition Keepa Mewett starts alongside Tom Hughes at lock and last year's hot firm of skipper Callum Gibbins and Heiden Bedwell-Curtis are reunited on the flanks.
It will be Gibbins' first game for the best part of two months thanks to his calf injury. He had been invited to the ITM Cup launch in Auckland on Tuesday, but needed more training time with the team after his layoff. So the injured Lewis Marshall was despatched to cook on the barbecue at Auckland as the Turbos' representative.
The other injured men among the 27 at Nelson who won't play are Nathan Tudreu and Chris Eves.
For now the Turbos look flush with quality loose forwards with Nick Crosswell and James Oliver to come off the bench tonight.
The only changes to last week's starting backline see wing Willie Paia'aua in for the injured Hamiora Thomas and Papa Wharewera starting at halfback.
Absent from the Makos' lineup are Shane Chrstie and Liam Squire (after training with the All Blacks), Billy Guyton and Marty Banks (injured) and Crusaders Tim Perry and Kieron Fonotia.
Manawatu's first home game will be against Auckland on Sunday, August 24, at 2.35pm, not on the Saturday as reported on Tuesday.
Manawatu team to play Tasman at 5.30pm at Trafalgar Park: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Newton Tudreu, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Hamish Northcott, 11 Willie Paia'aua, 10 Otere Black, 9 Papa Wharewera, 8 Antonio Kiri Kiri, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Keepa Mewett, 4 Tom Hughes, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Nick Grogan, 1 Hubert Buydens. Reserves: 16 Rob Foreman, 17 Tim Cadwallader, 18 Fraser Stone, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 James Oliver, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Jade Te Rure, 23 Jaxon Tagavaitau, 24 Jamie Booth.
Tasman: 15 James Lowe, 14 Mitchell Scott, 13 David Havili, 12 Tom Marshall, 11 Ben Tyler, 10 Robbie Malneek, 9 Jimmy Cowan; 8 Vernon Fredericks, 7 Tevita Koloamatangi, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Tevita Cavubati, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Siua Halanukonuka. Reserves: 16 Reuben Northover, 17 Jesse MacDonald, 18 Tom Hicks, 19 Jeff Lepa, 20 Shawn Begg, 21 Mike Wells, 22 Bryce Heem.
- Manawatu Standard
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