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Charles Piutau gets the nod for Auckland team

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 14:14 14/08/2014
Charles Piutau
Getty
GAME TIME: Auckland utility back Charles Piutau is one of several All Blacks returning to play for their respective NPC sides this week.

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All Blacks Charles Piutau and Francis Saili head a strong Auckland team to take on Canterbury in their season-opener in Christchurch on Saturday.

Coach Paul Feeney has snapped up the availability of Pitau after he was released from the All Blacks squad for their Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney.

But Feeney has placed Piutau on the wing - an indication the All Blacks are keen to have the Blues fullback get some action there.

Saili is at second-five, alongside pivot Gareth Anscombe who is on his last New Zealand campaign before heading to Wales.

"Gareth is back from injury, Francis is back and you've also got Charles back from the All Blacks. They're all enthusiastic and looking forward to playing alongside their mates," Feeney said.

It's a powerful combination with 12 of the starting XV were involved in the 2014 Super Rugby season.

Feeney welcomed the chance to take on champions Canterbury first-up.

"It's great to get Canterbury early on because it's a litmus test for us. They're the benchmark so we'll get a great gauge on where we are at.

"I think we've had a good build up. The boys know it's a big challenge against Canterbury but that's why they play, for the big games," said Feeney.

Auckland: Hadleigh Parkes, Lolagi Visinia, George Moala, Francis Saili, Charles Piutau, Gareth Anscombe, Junior Poluleuligaga, Peter Saili, Sean Polwart, Joe Edwards, Jack Whetton, Liaki Moli, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Tom McCartney, Sam Prattley. Reserves: Gafatasi Su'a, Fraser Armstrong, Will Lloyd, Blake Gibson, Leon Fukofuka/Wayne Ngaluafe, Simon Hickey, Ben Lam/Vince Aso.

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