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2011 ITM Cup preview - Canterbury

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James Mortimer     13 Jul 2011     getty

As always they will lose most of their flagship players to All Blacks duties this season, with test incumbents such as Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and a host of others unlikely to play for their beloved Canterbury in a World Cup year.

Although Graham Henry might release some, and this could give the champions a massive boost.

Ordinarily the absence of their international contingent would not be overwhelming factor for Canterbury, usually boasting arguably the most depth of any ITM Cup side, but a cursory glance at other squads this season shows that even the famed resources of the red and blacks will be tested.

This year could be the closest ITM Cup yet.

Last season they might have been shocked with an opening round draw to Hawke’s Bay, and a massive upset in round four as they fell to Tasman 27-25, but they still recorded nine wins – six of them with four try bonus points – to finish top of the table.

There was also their 26-16 round 11 win over Southland, giving Canterbury the Ranfurly Shield, which they lost to the Stags almost a year earlier.

Already they have defended the Log o’Wood twice, against Counties last season and this year against North Otago.

They might have won the clash against their southern neighbours 52-8 in what doubled as a pre-season fixture, but any opening momentum was duly lost when “spanked” (as coach Rob Penney later admitted) by Wellington 40-14.

The Lions might have been able to call upon a fair few Super Rugby players as well as Piri Weepu, Neemia Tialata, Conrad Smith and Cory Jane, but Canterbury will work hard in the coming days to ensure that emphatic loss is quickly put behind them.

That match had a fair amount of spotlight on it for the continued comeback of Colin Slade, recently called into the All Blacks squad, and Penney will hope the test coaches will release the playmaker for some more game time with his team.

Penney knew ahead of the clash with Wellington that his young team was going to be thrown in the deep end, but there will be concern as to how the Canterbury pack was bullied by the men from the capital.

Super Rugby players such as Robbie Fruean, Sean Maitland, George Whitelock and Matt Todd will be key men, while rising stars such as Tyler Bleyendaal and Luke Whitelock will need to step up if Canterbury is to win four straight titles.

Canterbury kicks off their ITM Cup season with a massive clash against Auckland at Eden Park on July 17, before returning home for a mouthwatering rematch with Southland for the Ranfurly Shield on July 23.

Last season: 1st
Division: Premiership

Final 2011 Canterbury Squad:

(Name, Position, DOB, Club, Height, Weight, Games Played)

Canterbury
Mark Abbott Loose forward 20.02.90 Christchurch 1.96 104 0
Dominic Bird Lock 9.04.91 Lincoln University 2.06 112 0
Tyler Bleyendaal First five-eighth 31.05.90 Sydenham 1.85 96 0
Sam Cottam Prop 16.07.88 Christchurch 1.90 126 0
Wyatt Crockett Prop 24.01.83 Burnside 1.93 112 65
Ryan Crotty Second five-eighth 23.09.88 New Brighton 1.81 100 25
Joel Everson Lock 9.03.90 Christchurch 2.04 118 0
Corey Flynn Hooker 5.1.81 Sydenham 1.84 108 62
Robbie Flynn Midfield back 23.01.86 HSOB 1.79 90 3
Robbie Fruean Centre 13.07.88 Lincoln University 1.90 104 14
Steve Fualau Hooker 3.8.83 Linwood 1.79 116 24
Ben Funnell Hooker 6.06.90 HSOB 1.80 104 0
Bernard Hall Loose forward 13.04.89 Lincoln University 1.83 104 0
Kolio Hifo Midfield back 26.03.90 Belfast 1.75 94 0
Willi Heinz Halfback 24.11.86 Linwood 1.79 93 11
Joseph Katene Lock 4.06.86 Sumner 1.99 112 0
Nepo Laulala Prop 6.11.91 Sydenham 1.80 111 0
Johnny McNicholl Wing 24.09.90 Sydenham 1.85 96 0
Sean Maitland Wing 14.9.88 Linwood 1.89 97 38
Nasi Manu Loose forward 15.08.88 Sydenham 1.89 112 35
Sam Monaghan Wing 11.10.88 Christchurch 1.84 89 10
Joe Moody Prop 18.09.88 Lincoln 1.82 112 0
Paul Ngauamo Hooker 19.02.90 Sydenham 1.82 117 5
Takerei Norton Halfback 2.05.79 Linwood 1.80 100 6
Brendon O'Connor Flanker 11.09.89 University 1.86 100 6
Andrew Olorenshaw Prop 28.09.84 Burnside 1.87 113 19
Patrick Osborne Wing 14.06.87 University 1.86 105 4
Ash Parker Number 8 1.11.88 Burnside 1.87 105 21
Luke Romano Lock 6.02.86 HSOB 1.99 110 15
Colin Slade First five-eighth 10.10.87 HSOB 1.83 90 38
Mark Swanepoel Halfback 26.10.90 Burnside 1.81 92 0
Codie Taylor Hooker 31.03.91 Sydenham 1.83 106 0
Tom Taylor Five eighth 11.03.89 Burnside 1.83 90 0
Matt Todd Flanker 24.03.88 Christchurch 1.85 104 24
Telusa Veainu Wing 26.12.90 University 1.80 85 15
Adam Whitelock Midfield back 17.04.87 HSOB 1.85 95 22
George Whitelock Loose forward 17.03.86 HSOB 1.90 106 38
Luke Whitelock Loose forward 29.01.91 University 1.90 104 0