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North Otago vows to put up a fight

It will be a David-and-Goliath battle.

The well-oiled machine with deep pockets and seemingly endless player resources taking on the little lad from down the road, who gets by on a bit of generosity and some lion-hearted effort.

But North Otago coach Jason Forrest is not waving the white flag. The side is coming off a Meads Cup championship and will wants to put up a decent showing.

“We know we are going up against one of the heavyweights of New Zealand rugby. They are a side that everyone knows about. They may not have all their All Blacks and Super players, but they are still going to be strong,” Forrest said.

“But it is about us and getting out there and having some fun, enjoying it and staying in the game as long as possible.

“It is a privilege to play in a Ranfurly Shield game. Not many players in New Zealand rugby get to play in one, so our guys need to enjoy it.”

Forrest said the big difference in playing a match against a Mitre 10 Cup union was the speed of the game.

The side put up a spirited effort against then shield holder Otago last year in Oamaru, eventually going down 49-14.

“Hopefully the guys coming off the bench can make an impact and keep us in the game.

“Our preparation hasn’t been ideal with the club final last week and we’ve only had two trainings together. But the guys are eager and know it is a special occasion.”

The game will be devoid of spectators, although it will be televised by Sky Sport.

North Otago will miss midfielder Nick McLennan, who has not recovered from a couple of bangs picked up in the club final, while winger Adam Johnson had a shoulder injury, made worse in the club final.

Kaikorai prop Sef Fa’agase picked up a knee strain last week and is out, but Sam Sturgess, who will captain the side, and Sam Tatupu, have both overcome injury concerns and will play.

Charles Elton will lock the scrum with Josh Clark, giving the side plenty of steel in the middle row. Woody Kirkwood comes into the squad and will start on the bench.

Alhambra-Union halfback Ben McCarthy will be on the bench and is the team’s player of origin. Mike Williams is at first five-eighth.

The side will use loan players for this fixture but will revert to local club players only for the Hanan Shield fixtures.

Canterbury has plenty of new players and will be captained for the first time by veteran lock and former All Black Luke Romano. Cullen Grace is back from a broken thumb to start at No 8.

Ranfurly Shield

Canterbury v North Otago, Christchurch, today, 2.05pm

Canterbury: Andrew Knewstubb, Chay Fihaki, Isaiah Punivai, Dallas McLeod, Manasa Mataele, Brett Cameron, Ereatara Enari, Cullen Grace, Billy Harmon, Liam Allen, Sam Darry, Luke Romano (captain), Tamaiti Williams, Brodie McAlister, Finlay Brewis. Reserves: Shilo Klein, Scott Mellow, Fletcher Newell, Zac Gallagher, Bill Fukofuka, Luke Donaldson, Rameka Poihipi, Cameron Bailey.

North Otago: Josh Phipps, Sione Kavatoe, Lemi Masoe, Sam Tatupu, Mathew Vocea, Mike Williams, Robbie Smith, Junior Fakatoufifita, Marcus Balchin, Cameron Rowland, Josh Clark, Charles Elton, Kelepi Funaki, Sam Sturgess (captain), Ralph Darling. Reserves: Jake Greenslade, Robert Richardson, Josh Hayward, Woody Kirkwood, Jack Kelly, Ben McCarthy, Taina Tamou, Antonio Misiloi.

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