The Bay of Plenty Steamers have lost 10 consecutive matches against Taranaki and seven of the last 10 games between the two sides played in Rotorua.

But even that rather alarming statistic isn't bothering Steamers coach Clayton McMillan as his team prepare to start their Mitre 10 Cup campaign against the Bulls at the International Stadium tomorrow night.

"We can't change what has happened in the past.

"I reckon they'll be more worried about us than we are about them. The boys have trained really well," McMillan says.


The team he's named for the season opener is "about as experienced as we can get".

That means the evergreen Crusaders back-up first five Mike Delany is back in the fold straight away.

The 2009 All Black went on leave after the Crusaders Super Rugby triumph but has quickly slotted into the Steamers set-up this week.

"Mike is very familiar with the environment and since he's been back he's fitted in really well."

It also means that 19-year-old Kaleb Trask, who's been named as one of three backs on the eight-man bench, can cover at both first five and fullback if needed.

Elsewhere in the backline are two of this year's Hurricanes squad and Steamers regulars – Richard Judd at halfback and Chase Tiatia at fullback.

Terence Hepetema and Liam Steel team up in midfield while Matthew Garland and Fa'asui Fuatai are the wingers.

The starting forward pack is basically that which more than held its own against Auckland in the pre-season match at Katikati last Friday.


Chiefs hooker Liam Polwart is supported by James Lay and Jeff Thwaites in the front row.

Canadian international Tyler Ardron is partnered this time by Te Puke Sports Kane Le'aupepe who'll be making his Steamers debut.

One-test Scotland international Hugh Blake returns on one flank while Mitch Karpik is on the other side of the scrum.

Veteran Tanerau Latimer is still not completely fit but is expected to feature later in this intense 10-match, two-month campaign.

The experienced Hoani Matenga, the founding bass player of famous band Six60 and former Highlanders player, completes the pack.

The Taranaki opposition has a powerful look about it - as befits their status in the premiership and as Ranfurly Shield holders.

Hurricanes hooker Ricci Riccitelli and former All Black Jarrad Hoeata are among a powerful tight five, while prominent Chiefs loosie Lachlan Boshier joins Mitch Crosswell and Toa Halafihi to complete the pack.

The most famous name in Taranaki rugby – Crowley – is represented again with Logan Crowley at halfback joining Blues first five Stephen Perofeta in the halves.

Outside them prominent Highlanders midfielder Tei Walden returns to his home province to play at centre in his Taranaki debut while another former All Black, the Crusaders Seta Taimanivalu pairs with the Chiefs Sean Wainui on the wings.

"We have prepared extremely well," says Taranaki coach Willie Rickards. "We are looking forward to putting everything together against a very good Bay of Plenty side.

The two provinces first met in 1925. This will be their 45th encounter and while the Ranfurly Shield is not on the line tomorrow, the winner of the match will become the first holder of the newly instituted Chiefs Country Cup to be played for among the four Mitre 10 Cup teams in the Chiefs franchise area.

Bay of Plenty Steamers v Taranaki Saturday 7.35pm Rotorua International Stadium:
Bay of Plenty Steamers:
1. James Lay (10)
2. Liam Polwart (14)** (C)
3. Jeff Thwaites (21)
4. Kane Le'aupepe*
5. Tyler Ardron (7)
6. Hugh Blake (20)
7. Mitch Karpik (6)
8. Hoani Matenga*
9. Richard Judd (10)
10. Mike Delany (72) (VC)
11. Mathew Garland (3)
12. Terrence Hepetema (19)
13. Liam Steel (4)
14. Fa'asiu Fuatai*
15. Chase Tiatia (26)

16. Valentine Meachen*
17. Solomona Sakalia (33)
18. Ross Geldenhyus*
19. Aaron Carroll*
20. Ajay Mua (1)
21. Luke Campbell (16)
22. Kaleb Trask*
23. Trael Joass*

* Denotes debut
** Denotes blazer game – 15 games
() Denotes number of games

Taranaki Bulls:

1. Reuben O'Neill
2. Ricky Riccitelli
3. Angus Ta'avao (c)
4. Jarrad Hoeata
5. Jesse Parete
6. Mitchell Croswell
7. Lachlan Boshier
8. Toa Halafihi
9. Logan Crowley
10. Stephen Perofeta
11. Sean Wainui
12. Daniel Waite
13. Teihorangi Walden*
14. Seta Tamanivalu
15. Beaudein Waaka

16. Donald Maka
17. Jared Proffit
18. Chris Gawler
19. Leighton Price
20. Adrian Wyrill
21. Warwick Lahmert
22. Avon Lewis
23. Latu Vaeno

*Taranaki debut