Rugby: Faumuina selection boost for Auckland

All Black prop Charlie Faumuina will boost a strong Auckland side for their ITM Cup opener against Hawkes Bay. Photo / Greg Bowker
All Black prop Charlie Faumuina will boost a strong Auckland side for their ITM Cup opener against Hawkes Bay. Photo / Greg Bowker

All Black prop Charlie Faumuina will boost a strong Auckland side for their ITM Cup opener against Hawkes Bay in Napier tomorrow night.

Faumuina has been released by the All Blacks for the match. Auckland will field 14 Super rugby players. Centre Malakai Fekitoa is the only player not to have pulled on the Blues jersey.

Fekitoa, 20, will make his Auckland debut and, despite earning a cap for the Blues earlier this year, wing Ben Lam will also make his first provincial appearance.

On the bench, New Zealand under-20 prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi, hooker Nathan Vella and first five-eighths Tony Fenner are also poised to make their Auckland debuts.

Auckland coach Wayne Pivac was thrilled he had a full complement of players to select from ahead of their first match of the season.

"The medical team have done a really good job and having that full squad to choose from hasn't probably happened to us for a while so we're very pleased," he said.

Auckland face an arduous start to their ITM Cup campaign with consecutive away games against Hawkes Bay and Canterbury, and Pivac said it was crucial for his side to hit the ground running.

"It's a tricky first 10 days, really, with Hawkes Bay away, who are obviously a very good side, and then defending champions Canterbury on the Wednesday," he said.

"If we can get through those first two weeks it will set ourselves up really well, but if we don't then we'll be chasing the pack, so it's very important that we get a good start."

AUCKLAND TEAM

Auckland team to face Hawkes Bay at McLean Park, Napier, tomorrow night (kick-off 7.35):

Charles Piutau, Ben Lam, Malakai Fekitoa, Hadleigh Parkes, George Moala, Gareth Anscombe, Alby Mathewson, Peter Saili, Daniel Braid, Steven Luatua, Andrew Van der Heijden, Liaki Moli, Charlie Faumuina/Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Tom McCartney, Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Nathan Vella, Ofa Tu'ungafasi/Angus Ta'avao, Nathan Hughes, Sean Polwart, Auvasa Faleali'i, Tony Fenner, Dave Thomas.

- APNZ

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