A long wait for main act at Manawatu games

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 12:00 12/07/2011

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ITM Cup 2011

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The ubiquitous Rugby World Cup will be part of the reason why curtainraisers won't be brought closer to Manawatu Turbos matches this winter.

Manawatu Rugby Union chairman Steve Morris had hoped the gap between games could be reduced to attract more spectators, instead of having a 40-minute interval.

"I was keen to get them as close as we could," he said.

That could have meant a return to yesteryear when the representative teams warmed up on the back fields at Arena Manawatu.

But one of those grounds is being kept fallow as a training field for the World Cup, so both teams would have to warm up on the same ground.

That shouldn't have been an insurmountable problem either, but union chief executive John Knowles said the frequent closure of the grounds due to wet weather added another complication.

Other provinces don't have back fields but that's not the case in Palmerston North.

Coaches like to warm up on the main oval to test the conditions, but it is usually of little interest to spectators. The New Zealand Rugby Union told Manawatu it could reduce the gap between games to 30 minutes, but that's little different from what is now.

On Saturday the curtainraiser between the Palmerston North and Rotorua Boys' High School 1st XVs will kick off their Super 8 game at the usual time of 12.35pm. With schoolboys playing 35-minutes halves, that means spectators will probably have to endure a 50-minute separation between the curtainraiser and the Manawatu-Hawke's Bay 125th anniversary match.

When Boys' High and Feilding High School played the curtainraiser to the Hurricanes match on May 27, some spectators left after the schools' match.

There was good news for the Manawatu Turbos at the weekend when tighthead prop David Te Moana played half a game for Te Kawau at Ashhurst, way earlier than expected.

After having a foot operation in Dunedin when with the Highlanders, it was feared he might not be back until as late as the Turbos' final four games of the ITM Cup season.

Midfield back Johnny Leota won't be back for the Turbos' opening game on Saturday but might be available next week, even perhaps for when Manawatu travel to Pukekohe for the Counties-Manukau match on July 20.

Leota played for Samoa in their 36-18 loss to Fiji at Suva last Saturday and looked good. He was substituted just nine minutes from the end.

Samoa play their final Pacific Nations Cup match against Tonga in Lautoka tomorrow.

Tall flanker-lock Liam Squire played a few pre-season games for Old Boys-Marist last year before back surgery forced him out for the rest of the season.

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Now playing for Marist in Nelson, the 1.95m, 104kg forward has forced his way in to the Tasman Makos squad. His elder brother Daniel, a pennants golfer and lock for the Kia Toa seniors, went close to the Tasman squad but didn't make it. He is likely to be in the Nelson Bays Seddon Shield team.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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