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Richie Mounga, Mitchell Drummond, Ollie Jager and Tom Christie return to Canterbury’s starting line-up for Saturday night’s Ranfurly Shield defence against Taranaki in Christchurch.

Mounga and Drummond both came on in the second half in Canterbury’s 43-29 win over North Harbour in Albany, while Saturday’s game will be Christie and Jager’s first in Canterbury colours for 2020.

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“We’ve been targeting this game as a return for a lot of these guys. They’ve had an extra week to get familiar with a few new systems and it’s a Shield Game! So, we’re going to throw everything at it,” said Coach Reuben Thorne.

Isaiah Punivai, has also been rewarded with a start in the number 13 jersey following his Man of the Match performance in Albany, replacing Dallas McLeod who is unavailable due to a toe injury.

We were really impressed with Isaiah on Friday, he came on and performed extremely well, so deservedly gets another opportunity,” Thorne added.

Young prop Fletcher Newell, Shilo Klien and Daniel Lienert Brown will provide front row cover, with further impact to come from Mitchell Dunshea and Billy Harmon.

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New Zealand Sevens rep Andrew Newstubb is set to earn his first start in the Mitre 10 Cup, providing cover for the outside back while Ereatata Enari and Brett Cameron will wear 20 and 21 respectively.

“The Ranfurly Shield is a really special part of rugby history here in New Zealand and in Canterbury, and we want nothing more than to continue to hold onto it. The players feel that sense of occasion and are really excited about the opportunity,” said Thorne.

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Adding to the occasion is the fact that the Canterbury Farah Palmer Cup side will put the JJ Stewart Trophy on the line against southern neighbours Otago earlier in the day.

Due to Covid19 level two restrictions the game will be played with significantly reduced crowd numbers. Eleven bubbles of 100, consisting of players, sponsors, media and broadcast, and members will all get the opportunity to attend the matches at Orangetheory Stadium.

Canterbury: Josh McKay, Manasa Mataele, Isaiah Punivai, Rameka Poihipi, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Mitchell Drummond, Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, Reed Prinsep (c), Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Ollie Jager, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Shilo Klein, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Fletcher Newell, Mitchell Dunshea, Billy Harmon, Ereatara Enari, Brett Cameron, Andrew Newstubb

– Canterbury Rugby

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