Rugby: Auckland name strong side for Hawke's Bay

Auckland's Liaki Moli. Photo / David Rowland.
Auckland's Liaki Moli. Photo / David Rowland.

Four days after playing Southland in Invercargill, Auckland coach Nick White has named his side for their Wednesday night Mitre 10 Cup Premiership clash against Hawke's Bay in Napier.

The departure of three All Blacks forwards has seen a reshuffle up front, with only one change in the backline.

Props Tom McHugh and Marcel Renata are in line for their first starts in the blue and white hoops, lock Michael Fatialofa starts in his blazer match, while Liaki Moli returns to the 23 and will play in the No 6 jersey, where he played for the Sunwolves, for the first time for Auckland. Steven Luatua is still recovering from an ankle sprain from the 51-16 defeat of the Stags.

"It's good for guys like Fats to get a start. Leni (Seu) was supposed to have time on the bench on Friday and that didn't turn out, so Liaki starts at six," said White.

"It's a great opportunity for Tom and Marcel to start. The work that they have done in the last 12 months is the reason why they have this chance.

They need to make the most of it."

Jono Hickey comes into the starting XV at halfback for the first time this season.

"With three games in 10 days it's a good chance to get Jono out there. It will be a good match-up with Brad Weber for him and to get a good run."

White said he and his team are wary of a Magpies side who are yet to claim a victory this season.

"It's going to be a huge game for us. We've got to make sure we are patient, control the ball when we've got it; it's a good challenge."

On the bench, Pakuranga prop James Lay is set to debut while clubmate Ben Nee Nee will get his first match for 2016. Fullback Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald will play against his 2015 union.

Auckland lost 17-12 to Hawke's Bay last season in a Ranfurly Shield challenge which did not hit the mark.

On paper, the Magpies look a decidedly useful outfit. They have understandably focused on defence this week after Counties Manukau gave them a 48-20 shellacking last Thursday.

Auckland: Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald, Joe Ravouvou, Rieko Ioane, Vince Aso, Pryor Collier, Simon Hickey (c), Jono Hickey, Joe Edwards, Akira Ioane, Liaki Moli, Michael Fatialofa, Scott Scrafton, Marcel Renata, Kurt Eklund, Tom McHugh; Reserves: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Isi Tu'ungafasi, James Lay, Ben Nee Nee, Taleni Seu, Leon Fukofuka, Latiume Fosita, Pasqualle Dunn

Hawke's Bay: Ryan Tongia, Robbie Fruean, Jonah Lowe, Tiaan Falcon, Mason Emerson, Ihaia West, Brad Weber, Fa'alemiga Selesele, Tony Lamborn, Trent Boswell-Wakefield, Mark Abbott, Geoff Cridge, Ben May, Ash Dixon (c), Ricky Riccitelli; Reserves: Jorian Tangaere, Jason Long, Tolu Fahamokioa, Ross Filipo, Ben Hamelink, Chris Eaton, Billy Ropiha, Matt Garland

Mitre 10 Cup Premiership
Hawke's Bay v Auckland
McLean Park, Napier
Wednesday, 7.35pm

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