Preview: Waikato v Taranaki
27th August 2014 – BET NOW
All Blacks scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow will make his first Waikato appearance since 2012 when they face Taranaki in Hamilton on Wednesday.
Waikato veteran Marty Holah will take over the captaincy in place of regular number nine Brad Weber who moves to the bench.
There is Waikato debuts for the new locking partnership of Luke Katene and Jacob Skeen, while young utility back Regan Ware is set to make his debut from the bench.
Meanwhile, Taranaki coach Colin Cooper has made just two changes, bringing in lock Leighton Price for his first start of 2014, while wing Jackson Ormond also comes into the starting line-up.
Ormond’s inclusion is at the expense of full-back Codey Rei, who is relegated to the bench.
That means a reshuffle in the back-line, with captain James Marshall moving to full-back enabling Seta Tamanivalu to move into centre from the wing.
Although he had limited opportunities in Taranaki’s opening 9-9 draw with Counties-Manukau, Tamanivalu was busy in patches during the heart-breaking 29-26 loss to Hawke’s Bay.
Charlie Ngatai moves in a place from outside centre in the only other positional change.
Marty McKenzie will assume the goal-kicking duties with Rei on the bench.
Although Cooper might have been tempted to make more changes to his pack to bring some fresh legs in, the strength of Taranaki in the opening fortnight of the NPC has been their scrum.
It was devastating against Counties-Manukau and was again impressive at Napier.
Toa Halafihi’s work off the bench on Friday might have put some pressure on flankers Berny Hall and Mitchell Crosswell but Cooper has stuck by the pair who have started both games to date.
There has been a reshuffle on the bench, also, with scrum-half Chris Smylie declared fit after a hamstring injury has kept him on the sidelines, while teenager Sean Wainui could make his Taranaki debut if he comes on as a replacement.
Wainui’s inclusion sees Beaudein Waaka drop out of the 22-man squad, while Warwick Lahmert has also lost his place now that Smylie is fit.
Another player missing from the bench is Doug Tietjens. The former Highlanders representative lasted only five minutes against Hawke’s Bay after he took a head knock.
Promising tighthead prop Ryan Cocker has been cleared of concussion and takes his place on the bench at the expense of Sione Lea.
There is still no sign of full-back Kurt Baker in the squad, although there is a chance he could be fit to play Bay of Plenty at Yarrow Stadium on Sunday.
Last match: Waikato 22 Taranaki 14, 12.10.13 in Hamilton (ITMC)
Last Taranaki win: Taranaki 30 Waikato 23, 21.07.11 in Hamilton (ITMC)
Biggest Taranaki score: 41 (41-45), 02.10.08 in Hamilton (ANZC)
Biggest Waikato score: 67 (67-9), 16.09.89 in Hamilton (NPC)
Biggest differential: Waikato by 58 (67-9), 16.09.89 in Hamilton (NPC)
Waikato: 15 Albert Nikoro, 14 Declan O’Donnell, 13 Jordan Payne, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Joe Webber, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Adam Burn, 7 Marty Holah (c), 6 Josh Tyrell, 5 Jacob Skeen, 4 Luke Katene, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 James McGougan.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 David Morgan, 19 Zane Kapeli, 20 Brad Weber, 21 Damian McKenzie, 22 Regan Ware.
Taranaki: 15 James Marshall (c), 14 Jackson Ormond, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Berny Hall, 6 Mitchell Crosswell, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Leighton Price, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Repalcements: 16 Timo Tutavaha, 17 Ryan Cocker, 18 Riki Hoeata, 19 Toa Halafihi, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Sean Wainui, 22 Codey Rei.
Date: Wednesday, August 27
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Referee: Damian Mitchelmore
Story source : http://www.rugbynews.co.nz/