Canterbury strengthen starting side for Otago

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 15:04 02/09/2014
TAKING OFF: Halfback Willi Heinz grabs a loose ball from the Sharks scrum before racing to score his try in last month’s Super Rugby semifinal.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ
SKIPPER: Canterbury captain and halfback Willi Heinz returns to the starting lineup for his sides match against Otago in Dunedin on Thursday.

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Canterbury coach Scott Robertson has brought back three of his stars for Thursday night's NPC rugby clash with Otago in Dunedin.

Skipper Willi Heinz and loose forwards Luke Whitelock and Matt Todd all return to the starting line-up.

Todd sat out Canterbury's 48-3 victory over Northland last Thursday night, while Heinz and Whitelock both started off the bench.

Richie Mo'unga, who has been at fullback for the first three games, switches to first five, with Tyler Bleyendaal still out with a neck injury.

Patrick Osborne will be used in the unfamiliar fullback role.

Outside back Luteru Laulala, the younger brother of tighthead prop, Nepo, has been named in the reserves.

If he gets on the field, he would become the third Laulala brother to wear the red and black jersey. Former All Black midfielder Casey Laulala played for Canterbury between 2003 and 2009.

Canterbury have made a strong start to the NPC, winning all three of their opening games, while scoring 154 points and 20 tries.

Robertson said they expected a tough encounter against an Otago side, who sit atop the championship division.

''Otago are an exciting team. They play a great brand [of rugby], they've got a creative coach and a good young group. Not many teams beat them under the roof.''

Canterbury: Patrick Osborne, Rob Thompson, Jack Goodhue, Adam Whitelock, Milford Keresoma, Richie Mo'unga, Willi Heinz (c), Nasi Manu, Matt Todd, Luke Whitelock, Matt Symons, Scott Barrett, Nepo Laulala, Ben Funnell, Alex Hodgman. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Siate Tokolahi, Joel Everson, Tom Sanders, Mitchell Drummond, Luteru Laulala, Nathaniel Apa.

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