NGATI Porou East Coast coach Troy Para says the inclusion of former All Black hooker Corey Flynn in the West Coast side for tomorrow’s Heartland Championship match is good and bad news.
“Having former ABs in the competition is good for the spectators and, in some ways, our local players,” Para said.
“It gives them a chance to see how they go against guys who have reached the top, but it also makes our job much harder.
“Corey’s skill and experience — 15 games for the ABs and 150 for the Crusaders — is a huge boost for West Coast and no matter where he plays, hooker or loosie, he’ll be a formidable opponent for whoever is marking him.
“But we can’t afford to focus on one player. West Coast have a strong pack with experience. They also started the season well with a good win (17-6) against King Country in Taupo before losing to Buller (34-19) last week.”
Para and co-coach Wayne Ensor have made wholesale changes, some forced, as they try to climb off the bottom of the table, where they are sitting alongside Poverty Bay.
Skipper and hooker Perrin Manuel (knee) and lock Morgan Poi (finger) will miss the clash after receiving injuries in last week’s loss to Wairarapa Bush.
“They’re a big loss, given the way they have been playing,” said Para, who has handed the captain’s armband to openside flanker Paddy Allen.
“He was the logicial choice. He’s had a great club season and backed that up in our opening two Heartland games.”
Kareti Palmer replaces Manuel, while Manaia Nyman gets his first start at lock, with Hone Haerewa switching to blindside.
Verdon Bartlett also gets his first start this season, coming in for first five-eighth Keelan Poi, who drops to the bench.
“We’re going for experience and looking for Verdon to give us good drection and clear communication in the backline.”
The sides had a ding-dong battle in Greymouth last season before the home side won 36-30 after the Sky Blues led 24-20 at halftime.
Para is expecting nothing less this weekend.
“They’ll be wanting to bounce back after losing last week.” he said.
“We believe we have the talent . . . it’s all a matter of staying focused for the 80 minutes. We’ve been guilty of going to sleep at various stages in the games and have been punished.”
As well as Flynn, West Coast coach Sean Cuttance can call upon utility back Maleli Mudu (85 games), Troy Tauwhare (hooker, 46), Rob Thompson (No.8, 43), Sean McClure (midfield back, 33) and David Crouchley (prop, 34).
“That’s a lot of experience,” Para said.
The match kicks off at the earlier time of 12 noon. ~
RUGBY by John Hill
Published: September 8, 2017 9:30AM