Lock Tom Parsons will return to the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team for tomorrow night's Mitre 10 Cup seventh round clash against Taranaki at Napier's McLean Park.
Parsons missed last week's win against Waikato in Hamilton after becoming a father for the first time when he and partner Grace Ruddenklau welcomed daughter Charlotte into the world two nights before the match. Tomorrow night Parsons will replace Chiefs lock Michael Allardice who collected a shoulder injury in Hamilton.
"Michael could have played as it isn't serious but we decided to give it more time to recover," Magpies head coach Mark Ozich said today.
The only other change to the Magpies starting XV sees Devan Flanders replace Gareth Evans at No 8. Former All Black Evans injured an ankle against Waikato but Ozich said he will be available for next week's match against Bay of Plenty in Tauranga.
Changes to the Magpies subs bench see Highlanders loosie Marino Mikaele-Tu'u replace Flanders and Zac Donaldson replace Johnny Ika as the back-up halfback. Should Mikaele-Tu'u take the field it will be his first outing of the season for the Magpies after a six-week spell with a shin issue.
Ozich said Mikaele-Tu'u, a two-season New Zealand under-20 rep like Flanders, had more than 40 minutes of action for the Hawke's Bay Saracens against the Wellington Development team last weekend and went well. It will be a big night for the Mikaele-Tu'u family as his sister Liana will make her starting XV debut for the Big Barrel Tui when they take on Taranaki in a third-round Farah Palmer Cup Championship clash in the 5pm curtainraiser.
Ozich pointed out the Magpies will wear black armbands as a mark of respect to Koro Mullins who died earlier this week. A long-time Aotea club supporter, Mullins, was the husband of Hawke's Bay Rugby Football Union board member Mavis Mullins.
Ozich is expecting a physical battle similar to what his unbeaten troops experienced in the 27-24 win against Waikato.
"Taranaki play a similar game to Waikato and with Stephen Perofeta back at first five-eighth they have got threats right across the park," Ozich said.
The Magpies again have the opportunity to extend their record for the most consecutive wins in a season. Their sixth consecutive win last week beat the previous record of five set in 2008 and 2010.
Former All Black winger Waisake Naholo is the biggest of those threats Ozich was referring to. Fellow winger Jackson Ormond and second five-eighth Teihorangi Walden are others.
Former Magpies hooker Ricky Riccitelli and lock Leighton Price are among the experienced hands in the Taranaki pack. Tighthead prop Donald Brighouse is a brother of Magpies squad member Hannon Brighouse.
Teams for the 7.35pm clash:
Hawke's Bay Magpies: Caleb Makene, Neria Fomai, Stacey Ili, Danny Toala, Mason Emerson, Lincoln McClutchie, Folau Fakatava, Devan Flanders, Brendon O'Connor (vice-captain), Geoff Cridge, Tom Parsons, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Ben May, Ash Dixon (captain), Pouri Rakete-Stones. Substitutes: Forwards, Kianu Kereru-Symes, Jason Long, Joel Hintz, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Josh Kaifa. Backs, Zac Donaldson, Timo Vaiusu, Ollie Sapsford.
Taranaki: Jayson Potroz, Waisake Naholo, Regan Verney, Teihorangi Walden, Jackson Ormond, Stephen Perofeta, Lisati Milo-Harris, Pita Gus Sowakula, Tom Florence, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Mitch Brown (captain), Leighton Price, Donald Brighouse, Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Gawler. Substitutes: Forwards, Bradley Slater, Jarred Proffit, Kyle Stewart, Josh Lord, Johnny Faletagoa'i-Malase. Backs, Xavier Roe, Daniel Waite, Liam Blyde.