Former Auckland first five-eighth Piers Francis will make his debut for Waikato in their second pre-season match of the year this afternoon in New Plymouth.
English-born Francis, 22, transferred to Waikato this season after making his debut for Auckland last year as backup to Gareth Anscombe, getting one ITM Cup start among his seven caps.
He was in the Chiefs' wider training group this year, but a groin injury kept him out of action for most of the time, meaning he was unable to play club rugby for Hamilton Marist.
Francis will play against Taranaki outside Fraser-Tech halfback Matt Cameron, with Ruan du Plooy on the bench this time, while Otorohanga newcomer Joe Perawiti and experienced Fijian centre Save Tokula will form the midfield combination outside him.
Preparation problems with the Hawera ground, where the match was originally scheduled, as well rain affecting the next choice, Stratford, means the 2.35pm match will be played at New Plymouth Boys' High School's Gully ground.
They will not play for the Ryan Wheeler Memorial Trophy because it is not a first-class fixture, with Waikato fielding 12 reserves and Taranaki nine.
The match is the last chance for players to impress before the final Waikato ITM Cup squad for 2012 is named on Monday - before the final pre-season fixture on Wednesday against Counties-Manukau at Pukekohe.
Former All Black flanker Marty Holah, 35, will start on the openside flank.
Loni Uhila's strong two-try showing off the bench against Hawke's Bay last week at Tokoroa has earned him a start at loosehead prop, while Marcel Cummings-Toone comes in at hooker.
Tall Hautapu lock Sam Kilgour comes into the second row, while Jono Armstrong this time gets the start at blindside flanker.
While the Waikato team does not include any Super Rugby players, Taranaki will field eight from the Hurricanes and Highlanders, who did not reach the playoffs and whose players have finished their compulsory three-week stand-down period.
Taranaki will experiment with Kurt Baker at centre and Jarrad Hoeata at No 8, while other Super Rugby players in the starting lineup for Taranaki include captain Jason Eaton, James Broadhurst and Jayden Hayward. Michael Bent, Andre Taylor and Beauden Barrett will come off the bench.
The match will be the first opportunity for the players to come to grip with the new IRB laws, including the new scrum engagement sequence and the requirement for teams to clear the ball from the back of rucks within five seconds.
Two referees will be used in the match, each controlling half a game.
TARANAKI: James Marshall, Waisake Naholo, Kurt Baker, Jayden Hayward, Frazier Climo, Jack Cameron, Kylem O'Donnell, Jarrad Hoeata, Chris Walker, Kane Barrett, Jason Eaton (c), James Broadhurst, Willie Ioane, Timo Tutavaha, Carl Carmichael. Res: Sione Lea, Michael Bent, Mitchell Brown, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Jamison Gibson-Park, Willie Rickards, Andre Taylor, Beauden Barrett, Jackson Ormond.
WAIKATO: Trent Renata, Glen Robertson, Save Tokula, Joe Perawiti, Tim Mikkelson, Piers Francis, Matt Cameron, Rory Grice, Marty Holah, Jono Armstrong, Sam Kilgour, Chris Middleton, Ted Tauroa, Marcel Cummings-Toone, Loni Uhila. Res: Thomas de Malmanche, Fraser Armstrong, Latu Talakai, Johan Bardoul, Adam Burn, Zak Hohneck, Matt Vant Leven, Ruan du Plooy, Sam Christie, Marnus Hanley, Joe Webber, Semisi Masirewa.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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