Back four have thirst for ball
Assuming the heavyweights up front provide the fodder, the Manawatu Turbos have a back four who could threaten the sound barrier at the Hutt Recreation Ground tomorrow.
Lining up at the back in the pre-season clash with Wellington will be Nehe Milner-Skudder, Newton Tudreu and Hamiora Thomas with Jason Emery thirsting for football at centre.
The back three wouldn't disgrace a cinder sprinter's track while Emery will have the honour of marking All Black Conrad Smith who is coming on after a thumb injury.
Thomas, of Porirua origins, gets only his second excursion at this level after setting up Manawatu's opening try against the Hurricanes with a burst of gas last month.
Coach Jason O'Halloran knows they are good athletes, but he also wants to see them making tackles and not throwing miracle balls.
"We want the same level of excitement and energy as we had six weeks ago," he said. "We've worked hard on our defence. We want to be nice and solid around the ruck."
The lineout was a dud last season, although it was solid against the Hurricanes. O'Halloran will be happy if it works and fits in with the team structures.
He has noticed the players have perked up this year by having everything based at Arena Manawatu instead of all over the city.
"The professional standards are a lot better than the last couple of years."
In selecting tomorrow's starting XV, the coaches have given preference to players who have been around for the bulk of the training, as opposed to those who have been in residence for only a few days.
A few players have been hampered by illness, notably new lock Keepa Mewett and No 8 James Oliver.
Oliver's repaired shoulder has got through contact training and he is likely to get 40 minutes with Antonio Kiri Kiri then slipping to No 8 and Heiden Bedwell-Curtis to No 7. Young lock Tom Hughes might get a full game.
Players who have niggly injuries will not be risked, at least until next week's joust with Tasman at Nelson.
Last year's captain, flanker Callum Gibbins, has been training but because of his recent calf muscle strain he won't play.
Neither will prop Ma'afu Fia who, although cleared of neurological problems, was to arrive back in Palmerston North today.
Fullback Lewis Marshall is recovering from a hamstring strain and Nathan Tudreu's sprained ankle is still on the mend.
The game will be played in two 40-minute halves with rolling subs.
While only a practice match, some of the Wellington players won't remember with much relish being beaten 19-5 in the quadrangular pre-season runabout in Palmerston North on June 18.
In the equivalent blowout match at FMG Stadium last year, Manawatu and Wellington drew 35-all, both teams scoring five tries.
Manawatu Turbos: Backs — 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder (Varsity), 14 Newton Tudreu (Kia Toa), 13 Jason Emery (Kia Toa), 12 Hamish Northcott (Varsity), 11 Hamiora Thomas (Linton Army), 10 Otere Black (College OB), 9 Kayne Hammington (Feilding). Forwards: 8 James Oliver (Varsity), 7 Antonio Kiri Kiri (OB-Marist), 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (Feilding), 5 Fraser Stone (Kia Toa), 4 Tom Hughes (Varsity), 3 Tim Cadwallader (College OB), 2 Rob Foreman (Varsity), 1 Hubert Buydens (Te Kawau). Reserves: 16 Chris Eves, 17 Nick Grogan (Varsity), 18 Keepa Mewett (Bay of Plenty), 19 Nick Crosswell (Feilding), 20 Papa Wharewera (Linton Army), 21 Jamie Booth (Varsity), 22 Jade Te Rure (Kia Toa), 23 Jaxon Tagavaitau. Wellington : Backs — 15 Tau Mamea (Wainuiomata), 14 Ambrose Curtis (Oriental-Rongotai), 13 Matt Proctor (Oriental-Rongotai), 12 Wes Goosen (OB-University), 11 Belgium Tuatagaloa (Petone), 10 Riki Flutey (Petone), 9 Jared Kahu (Petone). Forwards: 8 Adam Hill (OB-University), 7 Taniela Manu (Upper Hutt), 6 Vaea Fifita (Wellington), 5 Christian Lloyd (Upper Hutt), 4 Kaipati Gaualofa (Tawa), 3 Eric Sione (Norths), 2 Leni Apisai (Norths), Tolu Fahamokioa (Tawa) Reserves: 16 Reggie Goodes (Poneke), 17 Taniela Koroi (Tawa), 18 Api Naikatini (Northern United), 19 Brad Shields (Petone), 20 Matt O'Connor (OB-Univ), 21 Jackson Garden-Bachop (Norths), 22 Conrad Smith (OB-Univ), 23 Afa Fa'atau (Ories).