Test time for Taranaki development squad

IN LINE: Avon Lewis is just an injury away from being called up to play NPC rugby.
IN LINE: Avon Lewis is just an injury away from being called up to play NPC rugby.

A host of players will be wanting to put their hand up for the Taranaki development side this afternoon when they face Manawatu.

With just a week before their northern regions competition kicks off against Waikato, Taranaki coach Kelvin McDowell has opted to give the majority of the squad who did not start against King Country last week an opportunity from the opening whistle.

Injuries have also dictated some selections, with hooker Abe Haira, No 8 Kelvin Weir and loose forward Adrian Wyrill all unavailable.

McDowell was also awaiting the release of several squad members who were still with the Taranaki NPC squad.

"It will be a good hit out as guys scrap for positions," he said.

With Manawatu not fielding a development side for the past few seasons, the Taranaki camp were not entirely sure how strong they would be.

"I'd imagine, with the varsity down there, they should be able to bring up a fairly strong side," McDowell said.

"They're usually a fit side, so that should give us a good indicator as to where we are at, a bit more than last week anyway."

Taranaki were not overly tested in beating King Country 34-0 but McDowell still wants to see some improvement across several areas.

"We have to come up to speed pretty quickly because we only have two games to get things right."

McDowell, along with assistant coach Joe Lawn, introduced some more attacking plans to the squad this week and they would be keen to see how they were implemented.

A number of Taranaki's backs would be close to NPC action if Colin Cooper's men suffered injuries, including Pomare Samupo and Avon Lewis, so they should be keen to keep their form heading upwards.

Lewis, especially, has been mentioned by the NPC selectors, which was not surprising given his form in the club final for Inglewood against Coastal.

Kick-off at Inglewood's TET Stadium is 1pm.

TARANAKI DEVELOPMENT: Jayson Potroz, David Philander, Pomare Samupo, Nathan Hohaia, Avon Lewis, Rick McKenna, Brett Goodin (captain), Hamish Alabaster, Lachlan Boshier, Bryn Hudson, Jesse Parete, Giovanni Habel-Kueffner, Jared Proffit, Caleb Mawson, Bradley Chubb. Reserves, Zane Neill, Lopi Lilomaiava, Mark Shaw, Sam Shaw, David Ormrod, David Walker, Lewis Ormond, Liam McBride.

Taranaki Daily News