All Blacks loose forward consigned to bench duty for Canterbury return
Canterbury are set to unleash a fresh-faced pack for Friday night’s clash against Manawatu in Palmerston North, with six of the match-day 23 graduates of last year’s champion Canterbury Under 19 side.
After an impressive shift off the bench last week against Wellington, tighthead Tamaiti Williams gets his first start in the Mitre 10 Cup, with loosehead Finlay Brewis and lock Sam Darry also rewarded with starts.
Isaiah Punivai, who captained the Canterbury Under 19s last year and who also scored the match-winning try against Wellington last week, has been named on the left wing with fellow 20-year-old Chay Fihaki on the right.
Fletcher Newell, who was named Player of the Tournament at the Under 19 showpiece, will be called upon to add his strong work ethic from the bench, while fellow Rangiora High School Old Boy Lewis Ponini is in line to make his Canterbury debut after being called into the squad to cover Daniel Lienert-Brown, who has a tight hamstring.
“Tamaiti did a great job for us at the back end of the game against Wellington, and he’s been training really hard, so he’s equipped and ready to start this week, and Finlay has really stepped up over the past few weeks,” said coach Reuben Thorne. “Unfortunately, we’ve had a few injuries to some of our senior guys like Oli (Jager) and Daniel (Lienert-Brown) but that also provides an opportunity, to some of the younger guys who really deserve it too.”
Newly named All Black Cullen Grace returns to the side to take his place on the bench.
Ereatara Enari switches with Mitchell Drummond at half back this week, while Andrew Knewstubb gets an opportunity at the back with Josh McKay slipping back to the bench. Fergus Burke gets his second consecutive start at first five after a solid performance against Wellington.
Reed Prinsep will skipper the side and earn his second blazer after notching up his 62nd outing for Canterbury.
Canterbury: Andrew Knewstubb, Chay Fihaki, Ngatungane Punivai, Rameka Pohipi, Isaiah Punivai, Fergus Burke, Ereatara Enari, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Billy Harmon, Reed Prinsep (c), Sam Darry, Luke Romano, Tamaiti Williams, Scott Mellow, Finlay Brewis. Reserves: Shilo Klein, Lewis Ponini, Fletcher Newell, Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, Brett Cameron, Josh McKay.
– Canterbury Rugby
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