A number of local players will run out on to Rotorua International Stadium as Bay of Plenty Steamers face the Hawke's Bay Saracens for the first time in the province's opening pre-season hit-out this afternoon.

Whakarewarewa standout Doug Edwards will start at second five-eighth, with clubmates Siegfried (Ziggy) Fisiihoi and Te Rangi Fraser named on an extended nine-man bench.

Rotoiti's Joe Royal will captain the side from hooker, with teammate Jesse Acton to start on the blindside of the scrum.

Steamers coach Kevin Schuler has opted for plenty of size in the backline, with Edwards, powerful Rangataua centre Siaosi Iongi and former Highlanders winger Tino Nemani to start in a backline peppered with new faces.


Schuler said he was looking forward to seeing the Rotorua players run out in front of their home crowd, including Fraser who was called into the squad this week.

"He's in the wider training group and we've brought him in this week to work with us," Schuler said. "He'll be in there for cover and has been getting used to those systems.

"It's good for those guys for Whaka and the plan will be to give everyone a good hit-out.

"I think there will be a big cheer when Dougy runs out I'm sure there will be a roar when Ziggy runs out."

With midfielder Teddy Stanaway and Byron McGuigan not considered due to concussion and Culum Retallick, Carl Axtens and Kimami Situati unavailable, Schuler said competition for places was heating up.

"There's a lot of competition and we are going to give everyone a chance to stake their claim.

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"We're happy with the group we've picked and it's important for them to know that their hard work is going to be rewarded."

Kane Hames and Nathan Harris were not considered due to being called into the All Blacks training squad to join fellow Steamers Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick.

Schuler said scheduling the club season so Steamers players could participate in the finals had worked well.

"We had a huge representation of our players in the finals - even Greerton Marist, who have a lot of our other boys were right in the mix.

"Obviously five days ago some guys had a big hit-out but they've trained since then and the game is just a memory."

The visitors' side includes a number of names that will be familiar to Bay of Plenty fans.

Emerging youngster Ihaia West, who had established himself as the top first five-eighth in the Blues franchise by the end of their Super Rugby campaign, has been named on an eight-man bench alongside stalwarts Ged Robinson and Chris Eaton.

Openside flanker Brendon O'Connor will lead the team and should receive plenty of support up front from the likes of vice-captain Ash Dixon and lock Mark Abbott.

The Hawke's Bay side is far from full strength, with All Blacks Ben Franks and Israel Dagg as well as Richard Buckman, Robbie Fruean and Andrew Horrell not considered.

Kick-off is at 2pm after the noon curtain-raiser between John Paul College and Taupo Nui a Tia first XVs.

Students under-14 and children under-5 get in free.