Canterbury is set to unleash a new crop of the region’s talent, with 14 possible debutants named in the matchday 23 to take on North Otago in their first Ranfurly Shield defence of 2020.
While there are plenty of fresh faces in the line-up, the home side will be led by 11-year veteran Luke Romano, who will captain the side for the first time.
Props Finlay Brewis and Tamaiti Williams get their first crack in the red and black, so too New Zealand Under-20 representative Fletcher Newell and former Taranaki anchor Scott Mellow.
Romano will be partnered with 2.03m tower Sam Darry in the engine room, earning his first Canterbury cap along with blindside flanker Liam Allen.
Tom Christie was turning heads early in the season after week upon week of exceptional performances.
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New Zealand Sevens star Andrew Knewstubb, former Taranaki speedster Manasa Mataele, and Chay Fihaki make up the back three, while Darry’s former Christs College teammate Isaiah Punivai will wear the number 13 jersey.
Zach Gallagher, Luke Donaldson, Bill Fukofuka and Cameron Bailey are also in line to make their first appearances in Canterbury colours.
“We’re really excited,’’ said Coach Mark Brown.
“Many of these guys have been rewarded with their opportunity due to form at club level. It’s been a short preparation, but they’ve come together well this week. We know North Otago will come with plenty of fight, so our guys will need to be on their toes.’’ Brown added.
Fellow coach Reuben Thorne said “while plenty of young guys get an opportunity, it’s great to have someone like Luke there to captain the side too.’’
‘’We’ve also got the likes of Cullen Grace back for his second year and returning from a great start in Super Rugby, Dallas Mcleod, Billy Harmon and the rest of the crew have proven to be very reliable too.’’
Canterbury: Andrew Knewstubb, Chay Fihaki, Isaiah Punivai, Dallas McLeod, Manasa Mataele, Brett Cameron, Ereatara Enari, Cullen Grace, Billy Harmon, Liam Allen, Sam Darry, Luke Romano (c), Tamaiti Williams, Brodie McAlister, Finlay Brewis. Reserves: Shilo Klein, Scott Mellow, Fletcher Newell, Zac Gallagher, Bill Fukofuk, Luke Donaldson, Rameka Poihipi, Cameron Bailey.
– with Canterbury Rugby
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