After two narrow losses in Canterbury, Steelform Wanganui have rung in changes to get more backline security ahead of neighbours King Country coming to town for tomorrow's must-win sixth round Mitre 10 Heartland Championship match.

And the spearhead will be the latest Whanganui schoolboy to run the cutter, as at 19-years-old, Collegiate's Cody Hemi will take over the first-five position.

Regular first-five Craig Clare moves out to centre, where he played the club season, replacing Kaveni Dabenaise as co-coach Jason Hamlin said the team needs better "communication out wide" after Mid Canterbury scored four tries during the first half last weekend, including a length of the field intercept.

In addition, after joining Hemi off the bench in Wanganui's second half comeback in Ashburton, Nick Harding will take over the fullback berth - shifting Jona Sawailau to the wing, with Samu Kubunavanua now the outside back reserve.


"[Harding] wasn't the finished product by any stretch, but he is a talent," said Hamlin of the fullback's first start back in Heartland after recurring injuries the last two years.

Currently second-highest points scorer in the competition, Clare will remain the first choice goal kicker, unless his more physical workload at centre means he would rather defer to either Harding or Hemi.

The other changes are in the pack as Hamish Mellow returns from his injury recovery, replacing Gabriel Hakaraia with the returning Kamipeli Latu still preferred as reserve prop, while reserve lock Josh Lane will make his Heartland debut, taking over from last weekend's debutant Cade Robinson to provide the strongest lineout option.

With 100 game veteran Cole Baldwin retaining the starting hooker position and the captaincy, Hamlin said Roman Tutauha and Jamie Hughes will fill the impact players role off the bench so the pack remains mobile by the end of the game.

"Everyone's looking forward to hitting the ground running and trying to put all the lessons of the last few weeks into practice."

Hemi was willing to take on the line against Mid Canterbury and just like in the past with Stephen Perofeta, Hamlin believes he has the maturity to handle the first-five role at NPC level.

"With Cody there, it gives us more communication than we've had in the last couple of weeks.

"I wouldn't have put him there if I didn't think he could handle the job. We given ourselves cover with Dane [Whale] on the bench.

"He's a quality young kid, when he played for [Whanganui] Maori last year he played very well against men.

"You're right, we've had success in the past, [but] he's just got to go out there and play as Cody Hemi."

Having been handed their first Heartland defeats in two years over the last fortnight, Wanganui require nothing less than victory from their remaining three games of the round robin to keep alive hopes of an historic third straight Meads Cup victory.

But despite this being a battle between fifth and tenth on the table, King Country have always represented a stern test for their neighbours, with the record from their last five competition games standing at two wins each with one draw.

Heightening the clash is this will be the first game for the new Sir Colin Meads Memorial Trophy, which has been commissioned by the Palamountain family - close friends of the late All Black legend.

Sir Colin played in four Wanganui-King Country combined teams against South Africa and the British Lions, while he was in King Country sides that defeated Wanganui in 12 of the 14 fixtures they played.

King Country were desperate for a good campaign to honour Sir Colin's memory, so given they are virtually out of Meads Cup contention, Hamlin agreed they would treat tomorrow very much as a season-defining, one-off clash, to become the first memorial trophy holders.

"It probably is [their motivation], you're not wrong

"While they haven't been getting results, they have been scoring some points.

"We've got to make sure we put the good stuff out there."

The visitors have four test All Black Alby Mathewson, who at 31-years-old is still playing the game professionally overseas, to run the plays from halfback, while fullback Dean Church, Waikato import flanker Anthony Wise, and Bay of Plenty's Alex Thrupp are to be respected.

King Country have had one victory, beating Wairarapa Bush 32-25, while being competitive but unlucky in losses to West Coast (17-6), South Canterbury (42-36), North Otago (28-26) and Thames Valley (45-36).

Similar to Wanganui's loss last Saturday, King Country's defeat to Thames Valley came down to conceeding four penalty kicks, and Hamlin acknowledged that cutting down the professional fouls remains the hurdle to be overcome.

"That's always the blueprint for us, if we can watch our discipline, and that's around decision making - the where and when to go."

The curtain raiser game will be Whanganui Maori taking on the Marton Samoans.
Kickoff for the main matchup is 2.30pm.

The teams are
1. Hamish Mellow; 2. Cole Baldwin (c); 3. Viki Tofa; 4. Sam Madams; 5. Sokonaia Kalou; 6. Tremaine Gilbert; 7. Angus Middleton; 8. Bryn Hudson; 9. Lindsay Horrocks; 10. Cody Hemi; 11. Cameron Crowley; 12. Timoci Seruwalu; 13. Craig Clare; 14. Jona Sawailau; 15. Nick Harding.
Reserves - Forwards: 16. Roman Tutauha; 17. Kamipeli Latu; 18. Josh Lane; 19. Jamie Hughes. Backs: 20. Tom Stewart; 21. Samu Kubunavanua; 22. Dane Whale.

King Country
1. Carl Carmichael; 2. Sean Wanden; 3. Adam Morris; 4. Beau Taylor; 5. Mike Horricks; 6. Anthony Wise; 7. Ollie Kay; 8. Rob Sherson (c); 9. Alby Mathewson; 10. Kieron Rollinson; 11. Alex Thrupp; 12. Jesse Williams; 13. Stephan Turner; 14. Baven Brown; 15. Dean Church.
Reserves: 16. Josh Dais; 17. Nigel Neustroski; 18. Manuele Alofa; 19. Shaun Burr; 20. Nathaniel Smith; 21. Stormy McCarthy; 22. Xavier Conrad.

Heartland games between the two unions will now be for the Sir Colin Meads Memorial Trophy to honour the All Black legend who died in August.
Heartland games between the two unions will now be for the Sir Colin Meads Memorial Trophy to honour the All Black legend who died in August.