Taranaki make minimal changes for Tasman clash
The vast majority of the Taranaki rugby side who got the job done against Hawke's Bay have been tasked with taking on Tasman at Yarrow Stadium on Thursday night.
There were no shortage of quality individual performances from Taranaki during that 48-17 Mitre 10 Cup win, the side's first in Napier in 44 years, and coach Colin Cooper has acknowledged that in his selections.
The exceptions are on the wing where former All Black Seta Tamanivalu, who enjoyed a weekend with his feet up, is recalled at the expense of Manasa Mataele, who drops to the bench, and at openside flanker where Lachlan Boshier takes over from Adrian Wyrill.
The hamstring injury to halfback Kylem O'Donnell sees the return of Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, although that was probably always on the cards given Cooper's preference for the Hurricanes man, while Marty McKenzie and Stephen Perofeta swap positions again after the former was given an opportunity at first five-eighth in Napier.
McKenzie did more than a reasonable job there against Hawke's Bay, although some of his option taking might have been slightly questionable at times.
Cooper has also kept faith with the tight five that oversaw a vastly improved lineout and dominated at scrum time while No 8 Toa Halafihi and Pita Gus Sowakula were never in doubt given the quality of their performances.
"There is a lot of competition in positions within the squad and we are also rewarding form," Cooper said.
There are a number of changes on the bench where Mike Kainga has recovered from his knee injury. The Hurricanes tighthead showed no signs of discomfort when he got through 40 minutes for the development side last Saturday and replaces Reuben O'Neill.
O'Donnell's injury also means a recall to the bench for Logan Crowley who had been battling a shoulder complaint but he too got through some minutes for the development side and looked no worse for wear.
Donald Maka has won the right to be back-up hooker in place of Sione Lea while teenage first five-eighth Ciarahn Matoe is retained with the continued absence of Charlie Ngatai who has not yet recovered from the had knock he sustained against Bay of Plenty almost a fortnight ago.
There continues to be no firm word on whether or not Ngatai will return this campaign with Taranaki only saying he continues to be monitored.
At a glance
Taranaki: Marty McKenzie, Declan O'Donnell, Sean Wainui, Johnny Fa'auli, Seta Tamanivalu, Stephen Perofeta, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Toa Halafihi, Lachlan Boshier, Pita Gus Sowakula, Leon Power, Kane Thompson, Angus Ta'avao (c), Ricky Riccitelli, Mitchell Graham. Reserves, Donald Maka, Jared Proffit, Mike Kainga, Fin Hoeata, Adrian Wyrill, Logan Crowley, Ciarahn Matoe, Manasa Mataele.