With 78 days until Taranaki's first Ranfurly Shield defence for the season against King Country, it's worth looking at who is performing in club rugby.
With the first round of senior A club rugby being completed at the weekend, it's also time to come up with a form XV, not necessarily the side that will take on King Country at Inglewood on July 27, but the players who are making coach Colin Cooper take notice.
With Coastal dominating the first round after going through unbeaten, it's only natural to think there would be a number of players from their ranks putting their names forward.
While a number spring to mind, the talent appears to be fairly evenly spread which is reflected by the closeness of the top five teams.
Bottom team Eltham-Kaponga might not have won a match but they provide the first player selected at fullback where Fabian Rupapera makes a strong case through his consistent performances.
Although not part of the Taranaki pre-season squad that is training on a weekly basis, he gets a weekly mention from Eltham-Kaponga coach Brendan Crowley.
One player who has yet to establish himself, only through a lack of game time, is James Marshall who does look an automatic choice when the Shield goes on the line.
The wings prove a headache because there have been no clear standouts. Southern's Lewis Ormond, younger brother of Jackson, gets one spot, although he is still a fair way from being a finished product.
Rep wing Frazier Climo might have only played a few games for New Plymouth Old Boys because of injury, but when he has been fit he has been well ahead of most backs in the competition.
The midfield is equally confusing, although established players Jayden Hayward and Willie Rickards look the obvious choices, Clifton's Josh Kendall gets the nod on first round form, with Hayward moving out to centre.
First five-eighth features another Southern man, Daniel Brooks, who has featured prominently in all of his side's wins this season. Established Tukapa pivot Jack Cameron has also been in solid form, leading the overall points scoring with 91.
Halfback is cloudy with Tukapa's Jamison Gibson-Park ahead of Inglewood's Chris Bayens, while Clifton's Kylem O'Donnell has only played once for Clifton.
No8 features a new player in Taranaki in Adrian Wyrill. Although he looks a natural openside, his all-round play has been a constant for the defending champions. Others worth mentioning are Clifton's Chris Black and Coastal's Kelvin Weir.
The battle between the flankers has been a highlight of the opening round with a number of candidates, including Berny Hall (Inglewood), Chris Walker (Tukapa), Mitch Brown (Inglewood), JP Le Prou and Nick Lawn (Coastal), Dave Riley (NPOB), while Inglewood captain Heiden Bedwell-Curtis also comes into consideration, although he has been playing at No8 for his club. In the end, Walker and Bedwell-Curtis get chosen to partner Wyrill, with Hall arguably the most unlucky casualty.
The locks are more clear cut. Coastal's Kane Barrett has been the best player in the first round and would partner Tukapa's Leighton Price. Old Boys' Trent Sutton and Coastal's Dan Fitzharris are worth a mention.
Tukapa and Taranaki loosehead prop Carl Carmichael has been a bit slow to start before ending the round with some eye-catching performances. His form has not been enough to push Coastal's Rhys Morgan out of a spot, although Willie Ioane was also considered.
Unwanted Hurricanes prop Michael Bent is the first choice by some distance at tighthead.
Hooker is a toss up between Inglewood's Timo Tutavaha and Tukapa's Laurence Corlett with the former getting the edge.
FORM XV: Fabian Rupapera, Lewis Ormond, Jayden Hayward, Josh Kendall, Frazier Climo, Daniel Brooks, Jamison Gibson-Park, Adrian Wyrill, Chris Walker, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Kane Barrett, Leighton Price, Michael Bent, Timo Tutavaha, Rhys Morgan.
Tukapa's Jack Cameron leads the points scoring in senior A club rugby after the first round. Cameron has 91 points, ahead of Southern's Daniel Brooks on 80 while Clifton's Brad Cooper sits on 77.
The top try scorer after the first round is Tukapa No8 Adrian Wyrill. He has six, ahead of Coastal prop Hamish Lawn and New Plymouth Old Boys lock Ric Fabish with five each.
- Taranaki Daily News
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