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PREVIEW: Auckland v Otago

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Friday, September 30, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Auckland recovered from successive losses to Waikato and Counties Manukau by three and four points respectively to get home by six points against Bay of Plenty last weekend. Otago suffered their first loss of the season when meeting the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership leaders Auckland last weekend but they had been in dominant form ahead of that game.

Played: 82

Wins: Auckland 54, Otago 20, Drawn 8

Last match: Auckland 35 Otago 29, Auckland, 2015

Teams:

Auckland: 1.Sam Prattley, 2.Kurt Eklund, 3.Marcel Renata, 4.Scott Scrafton, 5.Liaki Moli, 6.Taleni Seu, 7.Akira Ioane, 8.Steven Luatua, 9.Jono Hickey, 10.Simon Hickey, 11.Pryor Collier, 12.Vince Aso, 13.Rieko Ioane, 14.Lolagi Visinia, 15.Melani Nanai.

Substitutes: 16.Blake Hill, 17.Tom McHugh, 18.Isi Tu'ungafasi, 19.Ben Nee Nee, 20.Josh Kaifa, 21.Leon Fukofuka, 22.Liam Steel, 23.Latiume Fosita.

Otago: 1.Craig Millar, 2.Sekonaia Pole, 3.Donald Brighouse, 4.Josh Dickson, 5.Tom Franklin, 6.Lee Allan, 7.James Lentjes, 8.Paul Grant, 9.Jonathan Ruru, 10.Fletcher Smith, 11.Fa'asiu Fuata'i, 12.Teihorangi Walden, 13.Matt Faddes, 14.Mitchell Scott, 15.Michael Collins.

Substitutes: 16.Nick Grogan, 17.Johan Aoina, 18.Michael Mata'afa, 19.Blair Tweed, 20.Naulia Dawai, 21.Josh Walden, 22.Scott Eade, 23.Sio Tomkinson.

Squad Update: Making a return to the Auckland side for the game are prop Sam Prattley, who hasn't played since the round two game against Northland while No.8 Steven Luatua is back from injury. Pryor Collier is back on the wing after sitting out last week's game. But missing will be hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate and lock Michael Fatialofa who are both injured.

Otago have suffered losses in their front row with hooker Sam Anderson-Heather out with concussion while Nick Grogran, who is a loan player, will cover the position in the subs. Prop Hisa Sasagi suffered a hairline fracture of an eye socket and is out for the rest of the season. Another out for the year is loose forward Dillon Hunt who broke his hand against Canterbury. Lock Tom Franklin, who had a groin strain, and fullback Michael Collins, who had a calf strain, are back in after missing the last game against Canterbury. Tei Walden is back at second five-eighths after being on the bench last weekend

Key Players: The return of some of Auckland's men of steel, namely Sam Prattley in the front row and Steven Luatua at No.8 should help ensure get plenty of go-forward in this game because they will need it against an Otago pace which although down on strength knows all about getting the job done up front. So with the front five doing their thing an interesting battle should been in the loose with Luatua joined by Taleni Seu and Akira Ioane while Otago can call on Lee Allan, James Lentjes and Paul Grant. Out wide Auckland looks well equipped with Lolagi Visinia on the wing and Melani Nanai at fullback while centre Rieko Ioane is always a danger but Teihorangi Walden and Matt Faddes will offer a good challenge in midfield.