Brought to you by Whanganui Rugby
It will be a massive afternoon of Whanganui vs Taranaki rugby across the Hicks Park fields in front of the TSB Hub grandstand in Hāwera tomorrow.
As well as the feature game of Steelform Whanganui against Taranaki Development XV, the weekend will feature Whanganui Māori, Pasifika, and Under-20s teams in action.
This will be the second season for Pasifika representative rugby, which replaces the previous format of Samoa teams competing in the central North Island.
A 26-man squad has been identified by coach Ace Malo, and had their second training hit out at the Kaierau Country Club last night.
Numbers were a little light at the initial roll call on Tuesday, as Malo said those who attend worked with the Whanganui Under 20s squad, coached by Mike Lama.
"We'll see what numbers we get [Thursday]. Might end up putting my boots on – hopefully not."
The players identified include many from the Premier rugby grade – specifically Ngamatapouri and Kaierau, while from the Senior competition, Pirates players feature notably.
"Only a few that played in the 2020 game; a lot of them are new guys," Malo said.
Whanganui Pasifika met Taranaki Pasifika at Cooks Gardens in October, with the home side coming back from 17-0 down to lead 24-22, until a fumble on their tryline near fulltime saw Taranaki snatch the game 29-24.
Also hoping for stronger numbers last night was new Whanganui Māori coach Duane Brown as, with four representative levels playing simultaneously, his numbers were likewise light at Cullinane College on Tuesday.
Brown has been working through a list of 2020 players to confirm numbers, while a handful sent apologies on Tuesday but confirmed their commitment.
With the Heartland squad having 31 players in Hāwera, it is possible Brown may get a couple to fill out his roster for their now-annual clash for the 125-year-old Tuera Shield.
Taranaki sent a strong team to regain the Shield off a makeshift Whanganui side at Cooks Gardens last October, winning 72-0.
Whanganui Māori will also play Manawatū Māori and Whanganui Pasifika in August, while Brown hopes to take strong squad to the Te Tini a Maui Tournament, which is set for October 30 on the East Coast.
"Still the goal to work to that tournament – it's just week by week. But by then the Heartland championship [will be finished], as well as the Under-20s and even the Under-18s."
Kickoff for games on multiple Hicks Park fields on Saturday is 2pm.