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PREVIEW: Waikato v Hawke's Bay

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Thursday, October 6, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: On the scale of disappointments Waikato's loss to Northland will rate as one of the more frustrating experiences for the former Ranfurly Shield holders albeit only a few days after losing the Shield to Canterbury. However, before that Waikato had lost to Counties Manukau and had drawn with Taranaki 20-20. So a pick-me-up win over Hawke's Bay would be a boost for the side. Hawke's Bay have battled all season with a win over Southland in Invercargill backed up by a 30-21 win over Manawatu last weekend to lift spirits. Waikato enjoy a seven-point buffer and if they can win on Saturday Hawke's Bay will be doomed to relegation.

Played: 49

Wins: Waikato 27, Hawke's Bay 20, Drawn 2

Last match: Hawke's Bay 30 Waikato 39, Napier 2015 (RS)

Teams:

Waikato: 1.Tau Koloamatangi, 2.Hame Faiva, 3.Atu Moli, 4.Jacob Skeen, 5.Brian Alainu'uese, 6.Jordan Manihera, 7.Adam Burn, 8.Whetu Douglas, 9.Pele Cowley, 10.Sam Christie, 11.Sevu Reece, 12.Tevita Taufui, 13.Willis Halaholo, 14.Ilieas Ratuva Tavuyara, 15.Jordon Trainor.

Substitutes: 16.Steve Misa, 17.Sefo Kautai, 18.Latu Talakai, 19.Leva Fifita, 20.Mitch Jacobson, 21.Isaac Boss, 22.Jason Robertson, 23.Milford Keresoma.

Hawke's Bay: 1.Ricky Riccitelli, 2.Ash Dixon, 3.Ben May, 4.Geoff Cridge, 5.Mark Abbott, 6.Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 7.Tony Lamborn, 8.Faalemiga Selesele, 9.Chris Eaton, 10.Ihaia West, 11.Mason Emerson, 12.Tiaan Falcon, 13.Robbie Fruean, 14.Jonah Lowe, 15.Matt Garland.

Substitutes: 16.Jorian Tangaere, 17.Jason Long, 18.Mason Kean, 19.Jost Eden Whaitiri, 20.Ben Hamelink, 21.Brad Weber, 22.Billy Ropiha, 23.Shannan Chase.

Squad Update: Waikato have made four changes to the side. Prop Atu Moli has recovered from an ankle injury which sees Sefo Kautai slip to the bench. Having recovered from concussion lock Brian Alainu'uese returns to the side while Adam Burn will start on the open side of the scrum. Pele Cowley will play fullback in place of Harrison Levien. On the bench, Isaac Boss has returned after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Hawke's Bay go into the game without Ryan Tongia in the squad, he's off to play in Bayonne and prop Tolu Fahamokioa is on a one-week suspension for a dangerous tackle. That sees Ricky Riccitelli come back at loosehead prop with Jason Long on the bench. Ross Filipo is unavailable due to illness and Josh Eden-Whaitiri has replaced him on the bench.

Key Players: Waikato have drafted a lot of new players into their side this year and will be looking to first five-eighths Sam Christie and centre Willis Halaholo to provide gravitas among the backline while Atu Moli's return in the front row should be a welcome boost to the pack. For a side with as much experience as Hawke's Bay has it should have been capable of better. Up front Ash Dixon, Ben May and Ricky Riccitelli will look to set an example for the rest of their pack while halfback Chris Eaton and first five-eighths Ihaia West will look to build on last weekend's efforts against Manawatu.