It's Umaga v O'Halloran
Cruden takes part in trainingPETER LAMPP
The coaches might be enthroned in separate boxes tonight - but both have Petone, Wellington and the Hurricanes in common.
Yes, it's interesting that Jason O'Halloran and Tana Umaga clash again after their playing days are done, O'Halloran in his first year as head coach of the Turbos, Umaga the same with Counties-Manukau.
Umaga has come to his role via Toulon in France, where he was player and coach, and O'Halloran after coaching at Kubota in Japan.
O'Halloran has more reason to be wary of what Umaga is bringing to FMG Stadium tonight, a team who have scored 21 tries in five games and have conceded seven. By contrast Manawatu have scored just eight.
"They're going really well, enjoying their rugby and making use of their athletes," O'Halloran said.
"Tana always had the ability to mentor the Island players, like Jerry Collins and Rodney So'oialo. So if he got into the right environment like Counties with the personality he's got, he would have good connections with those kids."
It has paid off with Counties the runaway leaders in the Championship and almost certain to host a semifinal.
The Turbos are battling just to stay in sight of the top four and if they win their first home game tonight, the TAB will go into freefall.
Umaga and O'Halloran were in the winning Wellington NPC side under Dave Rennie in 2000.
"We played a lot of rugby together and probably came out of the same school of coaching in club and rep, similar influences, with Frank Walker and Rens," Umaga said.
Now he could almost phone Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal and demand his old job back.
"They're going pretty well without me," he laughed. "It was the career I wanted to get into [then] but there were only limited jobs here in New Zealand,"
Umaga refuses to write Manawatu off tonight. History does show they have't lost at home to Counties-Manukau in this competition - they won 31-18 in 2007 and 36-31 in 2009.
"They can be a dangerous side at home with their tenaciousness and a hard-working forward pack. With us, the good thing is we have been able to pick the same players for the last couple of years."
Counties-Manukau have speed everywhere, from Kenyan lock Daniel Adongo to sevens whippets Sherwin Stowers, Frank Halai and Tim Nanai-Williams. But the Turbos have played these guys in the past, even if their forwards are doing more damage than they're given credit for. The Manawatu men know if they stand back and watch, the Counties guys will bolt past them, so line speed on defence and one-on-one tackling will be everything.
Counties haven't seemed to miss the injured Chiefs No 8 Fritz Lee nor flankers Ronald Raaymakers and now Mark Selwyn, with sevens skipper D J Forbes back from an eye injury to lead the side.
Manawatu No 8 James Oliver must be totally sick of his groin ailment. It failed him again yesterday and so Nick Crosswell is back at No 8 and Antonio Kiri Kiri is on the flank tonight.
Crosswell knows they are facing a huge challenge.
"No team has put them under 80 minutes of pressure so if we can hang in there for that aspect, we've got to be in with a sniff," he said.
"The longer you stay in there the better shot you've got. The boys are really up for this one."
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