Coach Tai Lavea has made a host of changes to the Counties Manukau Steelers ahead of their week three Mitre 10 Cup clash with Northland at Navigation Homes Stadium in Pukekohe on Sunday.
Two-time World Cup winner and 128-test All Black Kieran Read returns at number eight for the province’s second home game of the season – once again played under crowd restrictions due to COVID-19 settings in Auckland.
His return offsets the loss of All Blacks Nepo Laulala and Dalton Papalii, who have assembled with the national squad ahead of the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.
Highlanders prop Conan O’Donnell gets his first start of the season as he replaces Laulala up front while Ardmore Marist’s Alamanda Motuga will make his Steelers debut at openside flanker.
Latiume Fosita makes his first start of the season at second-five with skipper Orbyn Leger pushing out to centre.
Pukekohe winger Sione Fifita will run out on the left wing, forming a lethal back three alongside Kirisi Kuridrani and Etene Nanai-Seturo.
Joseph Casey and Leigh Hughes have been named on the bench in what will be the pair’s first Steelers games of the year while Onewhero halfback Cameron Roigard is also handed a bench spot.
The match kicks-off at 4.35pm while the unbeaten Counties Power Heat face Northland from 2.05pm.
Steelers: Etene Nanai-Seturo, Kirisi Kuridrani, Orbyn Leger (c), Latiume Fosita, Sione Fifita, Baden Kerr, Jonathan Taumateine, Kieran Read, Alamanda Motuga, Sam Slade, Matiaha Martin, Potu Leavasa, Conan O’Donnell, Zuriel Togiatama, Ezekiel Lindenmuth. Reserves: Joseph Casey, Leigh Hughes, Suetena Asomua, Mickey Wolliams, Jonathan Kawau, Cameron Roigard, Luteru Laulala, Jason Robertson.
– Counties Manukau Rugby
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