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Son of All Blacks legend set for Moana Pasifika debut

By Tom Vinicombe
Niko Jones. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Moana Pasifika have completely rotated their 23 for this weekend’s clash with the Chiefs, with no player set to wear the same jersey on Saturday as they did against the Hurricanes earlier in the week.

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Saturday afternoon’s fixture will mark the third time that Moana Pasifika have taken to the field in seven days, necessitating the significant changes from head coach Aaron Mauger.

Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Ray Niuia and Chris Apoua will combine in the front row, with the former two backing up after coming off the pine against the Hurricanes, and Apoua set for his run-on debut.

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In the second row, Veikoso Poloniati and Mahonri Ngakuru will partner up for the first time. Ngakuru is the only player in the starting XV to have also started against the Hurricanes but he’ll shift from the No 4 jersey to No 5.

Regular lock Michael Curry will run out on the blindside flank while Niko Jones will debut in the No 7 jersey – the same jersey his father Michael wore 33 times for the All Blacks during the 80s and 90s. Sione Tuipulotu, who has started three times at No 6 this year, will pack down at the back of the scrum.

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Hawke’s Bay halves Ereatara Enari and Lincoln McClutchie will lead the team around the park for the third time this year while Henry Taefu – named as captain in the absence of Sekope Kepu – and Solomone Kata will form a sizeable midfield.

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In the outside backs, Anzelo Tuitavuki returns on the left wing after last featuring against the Blues at the end of March while Fijian flyer Timoci Tavatavanawai has switched over to the right after impressing earlier in the season at No 11. William Havili resumes his normal role at fullback after ceding the jersey to Lolagi Visinia for the mid-week fixture.

Samiuela Moli, Tau Koloamatangi, Suetenu Asomua, Alex McRobbie and Josh Kaifa make up the forward reinforcements on the bench while Jonathan Taumateine, Fine Inisi and Tomasi Alosio will cover the backs.

Saturday’s clash with the Chiefs marks Moana Pasifika’s final regular season fixture against Kiwi opposition this year, with games still to come against the five Australian franchises as well as Fijian Drua. It will also mark their fourth away clash in a row and their third opportunity at getting a victory over the Chiefs, having gone down 61-7 in the pre-season and 59-12 in their first competition match-up this year.

The fixture kicks off at 4:35pm NZT from FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton.

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Moana Pasifika: William Havili, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Solomone Kata, Henry Taefu, Anzelo Tuitavuki, Lincoln McClutchie, Ereatara Enari, Sione Tuipulotu, Niko Jones, Michael Curry, Mahonri Ngakuru, Veikoso Poloniati, Chris Apoua, Ray Niuia, Ezekiel Lindenmuth. Reserves: Samiuela Moli, Tau Koloamatangi, Suetena Asomua, Alex McRobbie, Josh Kaifa, Jonathan Taumateine, Fine Inisi, Tomasi Alosio.

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