The paperwork has been filed, but Auckland remain in limbo about whether up-and-coming loose-forward Joe Edwards will be granted dispensation to tackle Bay of Plenty on Friday.
Auckland coach Wayne Pivac today named 18-year-old Edwards on the bench - in an unchanged team - but two days out from the clash in Rotorua, he is still waiting for the green light from the New Zealand Rugby Union.
Being a teenager, Edwards has reached his limit of two NPC games after scoring a try in a man-of-the-match performance against Waikato at the weekend.
"Joe Edwards will hopefully be on the bench," Pivac said. "We are waiting to have confirmation from the New Zealand Rugby Union, but we'll have that conversation very shortly. We've sent all the information we needed to down there [Wellington HQ]."
Edwards has been earmarked to take over from Peter Saili. The gutsy No 8 is battling through a fractured thumb and will have surgery to mend the injury after Auckland's clash with Taranaki next Wednesday.
Pivac felt the 109kg Edwards had proven his ability and did not envision any 11th hour issues around his availability.
The alternative was for Edwards to return to the colts, which would not aid his development.
"My personal view is if you are good enough, you are old enough," Pivac said. "Guys at 19 and 20 play for the All Blacks."
The NZRU are thought to be close to signing off on the request but wanted to ensure Edwards' teaching studies were not affected.
"I understand the reasons for it. It's about what they're doing off the field and making sure they have the opportunity to study. They [NZRU] are pretty satisfied so far. He's clearly good enough. I suspect he'll be good to go," Pivac said.
The shock departure of veteran All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock to the Highlanders has also led to suggestions that dread-locked Auckland front-rower Ofa Tu'ungafasi - an imposing figure at 129kg and 1.92m - could be in line for a Super Rugby call up after impressive recent outings.
"If he keeps developing the way he is and keeps his feet on the ground there's no reason he can't," Pivac said. "He's big enough, he's a physical character. It's just learning the lessons at scrum time. If he does that he's got a great chance."
Auckland assistant coach Paul Feeney has given Pivac some inside knowledge after working with BOP for the past three seasons.
This shapes as a must-win match for the Bay. Three losses from four matches see them rooted at the bottom of the championship ladder, in danger of missing the playoffs and in relegation territory.
Auckland, by contrast, are well placed, with just the one loss to Canterbury.
AUCKLAND: Charles Piutau, Ben Lam, Malakai Fekitoa, Hadleigh Parkes (captain), George Moala, Gareth Anscombe, Alby Mathewson, Peter Saili, Sean Polwart, Steven Luatua, Liaki Moli, Sean Brookman, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Tom McCartney, Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Nathan Vella, Angus Ta'avao, Nathan Hughes, Joe Edwards, Auvasa Faleali'I, Tony Fenne, Dave Thomas
- Fairfax Media
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