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Moana Pasifika name three debutants in side to face Hurricanes

By Alex McLeod
Photo credit: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

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Three players will make their debuts for Moana Pasifika against the Hurricanes at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on Friday.

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Although he has named a largely unchanged team from the side that were thumped 59-12 by the Chiefs last Saturday, head coach Aaron Mauger has opted to hand starting debuts to Manu Samoa midfielder Henry Taefu and lock Veikoso Poloniati.

A former Western Force star, Taefu replaces Danny Toala at second-five, while Poloniati will make his first-ever Super Rugby Pacific appearance after coming into the second row at the expense of the injured Mike McKee.

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Taefu’s international teammate Ray Niuia has also been added to the bench, with the former Blues and Highlanders hooker filling the void left by Sam Moli, who has been promoted to the starting lineup in place of Luteru Tolai.

Mauger said the inclusion of Taefu comes after the 28-year-old emerged as a leader within the Moana Pasifika squad.

“Henry has a strong physical presence and leadership qualities that will be really valuable on the field against the Hurricanes,” Mauger said in a statement.

“He has been training really well and put his hand up for selection this weekend. Henry epitomises tautua, which means to serve, and has been a real team man from the beginning of our campaign.”

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The only other change to Moana Pasifika’s match day squad comes in the reserves, with four-test Tongan midfielder Fine Inisi dropped in favour of Toala.

Interestingly, former Wallabies playmaker Christian Leali’ifano has retained his place at first-five ahead of promising youngster Lincoln McClutchie following a standout display against the Chiefs.

Mauger is hopeful his side can produce an improved performance against the Hurricanes compared to their efforts last weekend, which he said immediately after the match weren’t good enough.

“The Hurricanes are a quality team and it is great to see them back this week after going through their isolation period. We are looking forward to another opportunity to test ourselves against them,” he said.

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“In particular, our ability to absorb pressure and build pressure by executing our game for longer periods in the match and ultimately for the full 80 minutes.”

Kick-off for Friday’s match is scheduled for 7:05pm NZT.

Moana Pasifika team to play the Hurricanes

1. Ezekiel Lindemuth
2. Sam Moli
3. Sekope Kepu (c)
4. Veikoso Poloniati
5. Sam Slade
6. Sione Tu’ipulotu
7. Solomone Funaki
8. Henry Time-Stowers
9. Jonathan Taumateine
10. Christian Leali’ifano
11. Neria Foma’i
12. Henry Taefu
13. Levi Aumua
14. Tima Fainga’anuku
15. William Havili

Reserves

16. Ray Niuia
17. Taukiha’amea Koloamatagi
18. Joe ‘Apikotoa
19. Alex McRobbie
20. Josh Kaifa
21. Ereatara Enari
22. Lincoln McClutchie
23. Danny Toala

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