Mention Hurricanes and Taranaki hooker Ricky Riccitelli's name in rugby circles and you will get a common response.

He's the former apprentice who has leapt ahead of his former mentor and top dog, Hawke's Bay Magpies captain Ash Dixon, on the national rankings.

Although, to be fair to Dixon, 29, injuries have nagged him during recent seasons and Riccitelli, 22, who spent two seasons with the Magpies before returning to his home province this year has always been quick to point out Dixon was a key architect in his progress.

"Ash Dixon is an awesome Magpies player and captain. What I've learnt off him has been priceless," 2015 world champion Baby Black Riccitelli said before leaving the Bay in February.

Advertisement

Dixon, a 2008 world champion Baby Black, will have an extra incentive to remind Riccitelli who the top dog is when the Magpies host Taranaki in a Mitre 10 Cup seventh round crossover clash at Napier's McLean Park tomorrow night.

It will be Dixon's 100th NPC outing with his tally consisting of 78 for the Bay and 22 for Auckland.

"It's great that it is a home game. If anyone had told me back in the day when I first started I would play 100 I would have said I would have been happy to just play as well as I can," Dixon said.

"It would have been good if all 100 had been for the Bay but it is what it is. Hopefully I will get to play 100 for the Bay if they still want me to stay here. More players play 100 Super games these days so it would be pretty cool to play 100 for the Magpies ... we will just have to wait and see."

Riccitelli, who spent time in the All Blacks environment on a training stint earlier this year, is too professional to send Dixon any texts reminding him how their respective teams are performing. Taranaki are third in the Premiership with just one loss and the Magpies are second to last in the Championship with one victory.

"I've known Ricky a long time. He is a good man, a good mate and a great player. We'll leave the banter and chat until we have a beer after the game," Dixon said.

"It's important I get the boys inspired to play some good footy. There have been stanzas of good footy in previous games particularly in the first half. We know we have let ourselves down when we have come out in the second half. It's important we get back on the horse and keep the pressure on."

"Often when we have conceded turnovers we've conceded tries. It's crucial we all turn up with a good attitude. If we all do our jobs individually then collectively we will be better."

A father of two, Dixon, is still battling flu symptoms as are several of his teammates, and his hip is still a little tender but he is confident he will be ready to rock come tomorrow's 7.35pm kickoff.

Hawke's Bay Magpies head coach Craig Philpott will wait until after today's Captain's Run when he will check on several injuries and players who are still being nagged by the flu before naming his team. However his Taranaki Bulls counterpart Colin Cooper released his yesterday.

Captain and former All Black second five-eighth Charlie Ngatai will miss the match as he undergoes further head injury assessment protocols after collecting a head knock last week. Former Magpie Kane Thompson will start at lock for the visitors.

The Taranaki team is:
Stephen Perofeta, Declan O'Donnell, Sean Wainui, Johnny Fa'auli, Manasa Mataele, Marty McKenzie, Kylem O'Donnell, Toa Halafihi, Adrian Wyrill, Pita-Gus Sowakula, Leon Power, Kane Thompson, Angus Ta'avao (captain), Ricky Riccitelli, Mitchell Graham. Substitutes, forwards: Sione Lea, Jared Proffit, Reuben O'Neill, Fin Hoeata, Lachlan Boshier. Backs: Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Ciarahn Matoe, Tom Florence.
■ Supporters who turn out in their Magpies colours will go in the draw to win tickets and airfares for the All Blacks games against Scotland and Wales later this year.
Tomorrow's Rippa Rugby clash will see Flaxmere take on Maraenui. Hawke's Bay singer and guitarist Ian Munro will provide the pre-match entertainment and the Big Barrel Egg and Spoon Relay will be the feature halftime entertainment.
Non-playing Magpies will be signing posters from 6pm. There will be free face painting and loads of giveaways.