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Preview: Hawke's Bay v Auckland

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The teams have been played each other since 1889 and in 75 games player, Auckland, a team with a good record in Ranfurly Shield challenges, has won 53.

Form: Hawke's Bay go into the game with only an away loss to Canterbury in their six games to date and that will have been a reminder of the task ahead as they prepare for an Auckland side that lost to Canterbury at home for their only loss of the season. Interestingly, high scores have been posted by sides, even Championship teams like Manawatu 928) and Otago (29), and that could be a sign for Hawke's Bay to take on the Auckland defence.

Played: 75

Wins: Hawke's Bay 17, Auckland 53, Drawn 5

Last match: Hawke's Bay 29, Auckland 36, Napier 2012

Teams:

Hawke's Bay: 1.Tolu Fahamokioa, 2.Ash Dixon/Ricky Riccitelli, 3.Brendon Edmonds, 4.Michael Allardice, 5.Mark Abbott, 6.Tony Lamborn, 7.Tom Stanley, 8.Brendon O'Connor, 9.Chris Eaton, 10.Ihaia West, 11.Shannan Chase, 12.Andrew Horrell, 13.Richard Buckman, 14.Ryan Tongia, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Dixon/Riccitelli, 17.Jason Long, 18.Jarvy Aoake, 19.Sanaila Waqa, 20.Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 21.Ellery Wilson, 22.Billy Rohipa, 23.Robbie Fruean.

Auckland: 1.Sam Prattley 2.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 3.Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 4.Michael Fatialofa/Will Lloyd, 5.Scott Scrafton, 6.Joe Edwards, 7.Mitch Karpik, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Jono Hickey, 10.Simon Hickey (captain), 11.Ben Lam, 12.George Moala, 13.Vince Aso, 14.Bryce Heem, 15.Charles Piutau.

Reserves: 16.Kurt Eklund, 17.Jono Owen, 18.Tom McHugh, 19.Taleni Seu, 20.Matt Matich, 21.Kaito Shigeno, 22.Mitch Hunt, 23.Lolagi Visinia.

Squad Update:

Israel Dagg and Andrew Horrell have every reason to look for a good performance from the side as they are making their 50th appearances for the side. Hooker Ash Dixon is back, earlier than expected, from injury and is bracketed with Ricky Riccitelli.

Rieko Ioane will miss the game as he will be on duty for the Auckland Under-19s at the Jock Hobbs Memorial tournament. Scott Scrafton returns at lock for the side. Lock Michael Fatialofa is bracketed with Will Lloyd. Matt Matich and Lolagi Visinia have been added to the bench.

Key Players: As in any Shield defence the pressure goes on the home pack to deliver the goods and that is the challenge for Hawke's Bay. They do have a solid core with hooker Ash Dixon important in securing quality lineout ball with his throwing while Brendon Edmonds has a key task in ensuring solidity in the scrum. The locks Mark Abbott and Michael Allardice are experienced campaigners while the contribution of Brendon O'Connor and Tony Lamborn can be expected to be hefty in the loose.

Hawke's Bay will also look to first five-eighths Ihaia West to move the side around and with the experience to call on from Andrew Horrell at second five-eighths, Richard Buckman at centre and Israel Dagg at fullback there should be plenty of opportunity to unleash the exciting wings Ryan Tongia and Shannan Chase.

Auckland showed in their win over Tasman they are a team on the rise. A Shield challenge will be a measure of just where they are at in their development. They are relatively young in the front five, while their loose forwards have outstanding potential. And their backs have always been a force, even through the bad times, and with George Moala and Vince Aso so effective in midfield and Ben Lam and Bryce Heem so dangerous on the flankers there is plenty for Hawke's Bay to watch out for.