Ex-NRL star one of 11 Moana Pasifika debutants named to play Blues
The new expansion franchise picked up their first-ever Super Rugby Pacific victory on Friday, beating the Hurricanes 24-19 in golden point extra-time at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
Now the competition newcomers will return to their home ground with a new-look team to host their cross-town rivals in Auckland’s first-ever Super Rugby derby match.
Aside from that, head coach Aaron Mauger has opted for a completely fresh lineup, one that features a whopping 11 debutants, one of whom is a former NRL star.
Moana Pasifika will be captained by veteran Manu Samoa loose forward Jack Lam, who packs down at No 8 and will be supported by vice-captain and halfback Ereatara Enari.
Lam and Enari replace Manu Samoa pair Henry Time-Stowers and Jonathan Taumateine, respectively, in the starting team, with the latter two players rested for Tuesday’s match.
As a result, Lam is part of an untested back row trio that also features Manu Samoa openside flanker Alamanda Motuga and debutant blindside flanker Penitoa Finau, with the latter two replacing ‘Ikale Tahi duo Sione Tu’ipulotu and Solomone Funaki.
The front row, meanwhile, features another debutant in the form of Abraham Pole, who made his Super Rugby Pacific debut for the Crusaders earlier this year after having been called in as an injury replacement.
Pole, who scored against Moana Pasifika on debut when they faced the Crusaders in round three, will therefore break new ground on Tuesday by playing for two different teams in the same Super Rugby season.
The loosehead prop takes the place of Ezekiel Lindenmuth and will be joined in the front row by hooker Luteru Tolau and tighthead prop Joe ‘Apikotoa, both of whom replace ‘Ikale Tahi rake Sam Moli and ex-Wallabies star Sekope Kepu, respectively.
In the backline, mercurial youngster Lincoln McClutchie will pair up with provincial teammate Enari in the halves after replacing former Wallabies pivot Christian Leali’ifano.
Outside of McClutchie will be a new midfield combination of Taefu and ‘Ikale Tahi centre Fine Inisi, who replaces the in-form Levi Aumua.
In the back three, Manu Samoa wing Neria Foma’i, Tima Fainga’anuku and William Havili are all replaced a trio of debutants in the form of Anzelo Tuitavuki, Manu Samoa wing Tomasi Alosio and fullback D’Angelo Leuila.
“This is a great opportunity for our players making their debut to put their hand up. We have a lot of trust in our squad and these men have all been working incredibly hard,” Mauger said in a statement before commenting on the inclusion of Kata.
“Since we have come back from Queenstown, his level of preparation and training intensity has been outstanding, and he is demanding that of those around him. He is in a good space and ready to go.”
Kick-off for Friday’s match is scheduled for 7:05pm.
Moana Pasifika team to play the Blues
1. Abraham Pole
2. Luteru Tolai
3. Joe ‘Apikotoa
4. Michael Curry
5. Xavier Cowley-Tuioti
6. Penitoa Finau
7. Alamanda Motuga
8. Jack Lam (c)
9. Ereatara Enari (vc)
10. Lincoln McClutchie
11. Anzelo Tuitavuki
12. Henry Taefu
13. Fine Inisi
14. Tomasi Alosio
15. D’Angelo Leuila
16. Ray Niuia
17. Suetene Asomua
18. Chris Apoua
19. Alex McRobbie
20. Josh Kaifa
21. Manu Paea
22. Solomone Kata
23. Lolagi Visinia
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