Injury leaves Canterbury shy on experience
Canterbury plan to bring plenty of intensity to tomorrow night's all-important clash with Auckland at AMI Stadium in Addington but will have to do without their chief enforcer, Nasi Manu.
The powerhouse No 8 is out with a high ankle strain, which he suffered during the 25-22 loss to Tasman last week, but is expected to be back for Canterbury's second match this week against North Harbour on Saturday afternoon.
Luke Whitelock will take Manu's place at the back of the scrum with his older brother, George, wearing the No 6 jersey.
Manu's absence is a big blow for the young Canterbury pack but assistant coach Scott Robertson is refusing to dwell too much on the fact.
"There is a huge amount of talent there," Robertson said.
"We have some great young athletes who can really play rugby, it's just that experience is the missing link. It's all there though, these young guys understand it all, and the lesson they got last week came at a good time and now it depends on how they use it. They will show it too, they just didn't really get a chance last week."
The Canterbury pack were outmuscled last week by Tasman, and accuracy on both attack and defence was severely lacking.
Auckland will be expected to target those same areas again tomorrow night.
"We just need to play with a lot of accuracy and trust the systems we have in place.
"Helping us is the size of the battle we face: there is a great rivalry between Canterbury and Auckland and we don't have to tell the guys how important this game is - they know it already and are really pumped to get out there."
Joining Manu on the injured list for this round is Luke Katene, who is being rested after leaving the field with concussion last week, and Sean Maitland, who is out for the season with a ruptured tendon in his finger.
That has meant head coach Tabai Matson has had to ring the changes.
With Maitland out, Tom Taylor will shift to fullback and Ryan Crotty will join Robbie Fruean in the midfield, while up front Joel Everson will pack down with Dominic Bird at lock. Andy Ellis has been given the nod ahead of Willi Heinz at halfback and Paea Fa'anunu replaces Joe Moody.
For Auckland, All Blacks Piri Weepu and Charlie Faumuina join the side, with Weepu on the reserves bench.
Canterbury: Tom Taylor, Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Johnny McNicholl, Tyler Bleyendaal, Andy Ellis, Luke Whitelock, Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Joel Everson, Dom Bird, Nepo Laulala, Ben Funnell, Paea Fa'anunu. Res: Codie Taylor, Joe Moody, Michael Allardice, Jed Brown, Willi Heinz, Telusa Veainu, Sam Monaghan/Rhys Llewelyn.
Auckland: Charles Piutau, Ben Lam, Malakai Fekitoa, Hadleigh Parkes, George Moala, Gareth Anscombe, Alby Mathewson, Peter Saili, Sean Polwart, Steven Luatua, Andrew Van der Heijden, Liaki Moli, Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney, Pauliasi Manu. Res: Nathan Vella, Angus Ta'avao, Nathan Hughes, Sean Brookman, Piri Weepu, Tony Fenner, Dave Thomas.
- © Fairfax NZ News