Rugby: Pivac has his hand forced

With Peter Saili going under the knife to repair a broken thumb, Joe Edwards (pictured) will make his first start of the season at No 8.
With Peter Saili going under the knife to repair a broken thumb, Joe Edwards (pictured) will make his first start of the season at No 8.

Auckland head coach Wayne Pivac has made three changes to his starting XV for tomorrow evening's ITM Cup match against Wellington at Eden Park.

Two are injury enforced, with Ben Lam coming on to the wing to replace George Moala who broke his leg in Wednesday's win over Taranaki and will miss the rest of the season.

With Peter Saili going under the knife to repair a broken thumb, Joe Edwards will make his first start of the season at No 8.

It was a great birthday present for Edwards who turns 19 today and Pivac said the youngster was looking forward to the challenge.

"He's come on in games so far and made a great impact. He gets an opportunity to start so that's a fresh challenge for him," Pivac said.

"If you look at Ardie Savea in the Wellington team, he's 18 years of age so it just goes to show this competition is throwing up some great young players and it'll be great to see them go head to head."

With a short turnaround following Wednesday's game, Ofa Tu'ungafasi has been named on the bench, with Angus Ta'avao switching to tighthead prop as Pauliasi Manu starts at loosehead.

Pivac said tomorrow night's match would be a big test for his team against a Wellington side who sit on top of the Premiership ladder.

"It's going to be a huge challenge for a number of reasons," he said.

"None bigger I guess than the short turn around but certainly that comes down to our preparation in a short space of time, it's really a mental attitude and the players are aware of that. Other teams have turned around good performances and there's no reason we can't.

"The fact that we're playing at home is big for this team with a lot of young players, they love playing here and so hopefully that will negate the freshness that Wellington will bring to the game but they're a strong side and they have quality players."

Auckland: Charles Piutau, Ben Lam, Malakai Fekitoa, Hadleigh Parkes, Dave Thomas, Gareth Anscombe, Alby Mathewson, Joe Edwards, Sean Polwart, Steven Luatua, Andrew Van der Heijden, Liaki Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Tom McCartney, Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Nathan Vella, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Nathan Hughes, Daniel Braid, Auvasa Faleali'i, Simon Hickey, Lolagi Visinia

- APNZ

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