Taranaki Bulls Head Coach Willie Rickards has made just two changes to the starting XV for Saturday’s Ranfurly Shield challenge against Canterbury in Christchurch.
Loosehead prop Reuben O’Neill replaces Jared Proffit in the front row and Kaylum Boshier replaces the injured Mitchell Brown in the loose forwards. Brown suffered a hamstring tweak in the final minutes of the Bay Of Plenty match. Teihorangi Walden will captain the side in his absence.
Proffit moves to the bench which also has minimal changes, with utility back Brayton Northcott-Hill and Jack Jordan coming into the substitutes.
“Our coaching group were pretty impressed with the effort from the entire squad against Bay of Plenty and we felt it made sense to stick with the combinations we have,” Rickards said.
“There were obviously some stand-out performances from certain individuals but the effort we saw from everyone in our group has been really encouraging.”
Top of the list of those who impressed at Inglewood’s TET Stadium and Events Centre were newly named All Blacks lock Tupou Vaa’i and fellow national squad member Jordie Barrett who was a stand-out on his debut for the Bulls.
Barrett, along with older brother Beauden, will again lead the Yarrows Taranaki Bulls attack as the pair challenge for the Ranfurly Shield for the first time together.
There were also encouraging debuts for young wing Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, veteran prop Ben May and wing Lewis Ormond who could potentially add a successful Shield challenge to their varying rugby resumes.
“Everyone is really excited about the opportunity that is in front of us and we are really relishing the challenge,” Rickards added.
“We know what sort of quality exists in the Canterbury ranks and that is a big part of the appeal for us. To have the chance to head south and give everything we have to bring that old Log o’ Wood back to our fans and that’s a massive driver for us.”
Rickards was part of the 2011 Yarrows Taranaki Bulls side which headed to Invercargill and defeated Southland to win the Ranfurly Shield alongside Beauden Barrett, while hooker Ricky Riccitelli, flanker Lachlan Boshier, centre Sean Wainui and Proffit were in the squad when they last stunned Canterbury in their 2017 challenge.
Loose forward Tom Florence will make his 20th appearance for the Bulls and earn his blazer if he comes off the bench.
Taranaki: Jordie Barrett, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Sean Wainui, Teihorangi Walden, Lewis Ormond, Beauden Barrett, Lisati Milo-Harris, Kaylum Boshier, Lachlan Boshier, Mitchell Crosswell, Tupou Vaa’i, Josh Lord, Ben May, Ricky Riccitelli, Reuben O’Neill. Reserves: Bradley Slater, Jared Proffit, Donald Brighouse, Jack Jordan, Tom Florence, Warwick Lahmert, Jayson Potroz, Brayton Northcott-Hill.
– Chiefs Rugby
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