All Black halfback Brad Weber will start for the Hawke's Bay Magpies in tomorrow night's Mitre 10 Cup Championship rugby match against Otago at Napier's McLean Park.
"Brad hasn't played much rugby in recent weeks. He came into training yesterday energetic and keen to play," Magpies head coach Mark Ozich said when announcing his team this morning.
Former Otago player Weber's replacing of Folau Fakatava is one of four confirmed changes to the hosts starting XV for the round three fixture and there could be a fifth. Should Jonah Lowe pass a fitness test on his injured shoulder at this afternoon's Captain's Run he will replace Ollie Sapsford on the right wing.
Weber scored in both of the Magpies games against Otago last year and also for the Bay against his former Waikato side. Tomorrow night's match gives him another opportunity to continue his tradition of scoring against his former provinces.
Another of the Magpies former Otago players, former All Black No 8 Gareth Evans, won't take the field against his former team. Ozich said Evans eye injury collected in the August 11 win against the Manawatu Turbos needs more time to heal.
Two-time Under 20 World Cup player with the Baby Blacks, Devan Flanders, moves from blindside flanker to the No 8 role. Former Baby Black Geoff Cridge moves from lock to replace Flanders in the No 6 jersey and Maori All Black Isaia Walker-Leawere replaces Cridge at lock.
MAC club player Solomone Funaki replaces Walker-Leawere on the subs bench and if takes the field it will be his second first class outing for the Magpies and first this season. Other changes to the subs bench used in last Friday night's 27-all draw with the Wellngton Lions will see Fakatava replace Zac Donaldson and should Lowe get the thumbs up Sapsford will replace Timo Vaiusu.
The Otago team won't be announced until tonight. However the visitors are certain to start All Black squad members, hooker Liam Coltman and first five-eighth Josh Ioane.
Former All Black loosie Adam Thomson is likely to start at blindside flanker for Otago. All Black Sevens star Vilimoni Koroi, who was a lethal attacking weapon for Otago in both fixtures against the Magpies last year, should be the starting fullback.
The full Magpies team is:
Caleb Makene, Jonah Lowe/Ollie Sapsford, Stacey Ili, Danny Toala, Mason Emerson, Lincoln McClutchie, Brad Weber, Devan Flanders, Brendon O'Connor, Geoff Cridge, Tom Parsons, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Joel Hintz, Ash Dixon (captain), Pouri Rakete-Stones. Substitutes: Forwards, Kianu Kereru-Symes, Ben May, Namatahi Waa, Solomone Funaki, Josh Kaifa. Backs, Folau Fakatava, Sapsford/Timo Vaiusu, Neria Fomai.