Former All Black halfback Alby Mathewson will get game time off the bench for the Saracens XV in tomorrow's match against Taranaki in Taupo.
Hawke's Bay Magpies head coach Craig Philpott said Mathewson and former Junior All Black hooker Ged Robinson had their first training session with Magpies training squad members in Taupo yesterday after their respective Super campaigns with the Force and Rebels.
"They fitted in superbly and were sharp in training. However they may both only get 10 minutes off the bench as they have only had one training with the boys," Philpott said.
Yesterday's training session followed a series of team bonding exercises on Monday. One of these saw squad members carry logs up to the top of Mt Tauhara.
Magpies centurion and former captain Michael Johnson met the squad at the top and presented them with their training jerseys for the season. The jerseys feature a photo of McLean Park, the Magpies fortress for the season, and several key slogans which the Magpies will adopt this season.
One of the slogans reads; "There are no short cuts to any place worth going."
Maori All Black and Hurricanes openside flanker Karl Lowe was the best of the players during yesterday's paintball game. As was the case last year Magpies manager and former halfback Neil Weber did the best of the management team and coaches.
Philpott has made just one change to his starting XV used in last week's 33-29 loss to the Bay of Plenty Wasps. Frenchman Regis Lespinas replaces Ihaia West at first five-eighth.
Promising Havelock North prop Kelly Petrowski has been bracketed with former London Irish frontrower Max Lahiff who may require more time to recover from ankle and calf injuries.
This will be the Magpies training squad's final outing in Saracens XV colours. The Magpies ITM Cup squad will be announced on August 9 and the following day will play Auckland at McLean Park in the curtainraiser to the Maddison Trophy final which will be their final rehearsal before opening their Cup Championship campaign at McLean Park on August 17.
The Saracens XV is:
Gillies Kaka, Trinity Spooner-Neera, Bronson Neera, Adam Bradey (captain), Mikey Vuicakau, Regis Lespinas, Chris Eaton, Mark Atkins, Tony Lamborn, Trent Boswell-Wakefield, Mark Abbott, Michael Allardice, Jody Allen, Jesse MacDonald, Brendon Edmonds.
Forwards, Ged Robinson, Willie Ioane, Kelly Petrowski/Max Lahiff, Tom Parsons, Johan Schoonbee, Mike Coman. Backs, Alby Mathewson, Ihaia West, Richard Buckman.
Hawke's Bay Rugby Football Union chairman Brendan Mahony will make an announcement on the MAC premier club competition protest this afternoon.
Last night Mahony said he and union club rugby director Neil Pulford will meet with MAC Sports Association chairman Anthony Morley in Flaxmere today before releasing details of the union's decision.
On Monday Morley said his club had protested about Havelock North playing ineligible players in their 19-3 win against MAC on July 13. Morley is confident his team will be awarded the win which will give MAC enough competition points to replace Taradale as the fourth qualifier for Saturday's Maddison Trophy semifinals.