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Franks in for Canterbury, Williams back for Auckland in ITM Cup Premiership Final

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aucklandrugby.co.nz and crfu.co.nz     25 Oct 2012     Getty Images

Head Coach Tabai Matson has named his team with only a couple of changes to the starting line-up that took out Taranaki in the semi-final.

Prop Ben Franks has been released by the All Blacks for the Final so will pair up with his All Black teammate Wyatt Crockett.

Adam Whitelock and Ryan Crotty have not recovered sufficiently from injuries sustained last weekend to make the line-up. Whitelock’s absence sees Telusa Veainu take the right wing and Willi Heinz the left. Crotty was pulled from the team for the semi-final at the last minute so, as for that game, Johnny McNicholl goes to fullback and Tom Taylor to second five.

Christchurch Club utility back Matthew Thatcher has been brought onto the reserve bench as additional cover for the backs.

Meanwhile Auckland Captain Daniel Braid will become the first player since Eroni Clarke to play 100 games for Auckland when he leads out the team to face Canterbury in the ITM Cup Premiership final on Saturday.

Braid, the 22nd Auckland centurion, joins an illustrious list of names to have reached the ton including Hallard ‘Snow’ White, Grant Fox, Gary and Alan Whetton, Robin and Zinzan Brooke, Sir John Kirwan and Bryan Williams.

“The opportunity to play 100 games for Auckland was one of the reasons I came back to play for the Blues and Auckland after my stint at the Reds,” Braid said.

“My neck injury last year delayed that a little bit so to be able to get there now is pretty special for me.”

And Braid can’t think of a better team to play his 100th game against than Canterbury in a Premiership final.

“These guys have won four in a row, they’re the dominant side in New Zealand at the moment. We were the last team that won the championship before them so I think it’s time that someone knocked them off their perch.”

All Black lock Ali Williams passed his fitness test during today’s training run and will start in place of Andrew Van der Heijden, while Angus Ta’avao has also overcome a niggle to start at tighthead prop.

Returning All Black Charlie Faumuina will make a strong impact off the bench after enjoying a couple of days off following Saturday’s Test match against the Wallabies.

Only four players remain from the 2007 Auckland squad that won the Air New Zealand Cup – Daniel Braid, Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney and Ali Williams, while only Braid and McCartney played in the final.

Auckland head coach Wayne Pivac said his side faced a daunting challenge against a high-flying Canterbury outfit, but it was one they were relishing.

“They’ve been superb,” he said of the Red and Blacks.

“Canterbury teams over the last few years along with the Crusaders tend to peak at the right time. They’ve got a lot of experienced players, certainly at this level, and they judge their run really well.

“They’re scoring a lot of tries and they’ve got the best defensive record so certainly they’re the number one team and it’s for us to go down there and try and get up and knock them over.”

Kick-off is 7:35pm at AMI Stadium (Addington) and the Women’s Provincial Championship Final between Canterbury and Auckland will be the curtain raiser at 4:35pm.

Canterbury team to play Auckland:

Wyatt Crockett
Ben Funnell
Ben Franks
Joel Everson
Dominic Bird
George Whitelock(C)
Matt Todd
Luke Whitelock
Andy Ellis
Tyler Bleyendaal
Willi Heinz
Tom Taylor
Robbie Fruean
Telusa Veainu
Johnny McNicholl

Reserves:

Codie Taylor
Joe Moody
Jed Brown
Jordan Taufua
Matthew Thatcher
Kolio Hifo
Stephen Gee

The Auckland team to face Canterbury:

Pauliasi Manu (University)
Tom McCartney (Pakuranga)
Angus Ta’avao (Marist)
Liaki Moli (Manukau)
Ali Williams (Ponsonby)
Steven Luatua (University)
Daniel Braid (C) (University)
Joe Edwards (Pakuranga)
Alby Mathewson (Grammar Carlton)
Gareth Anscombe (Ponsonby)
Dave Thomas (Grammar Carlton)
Hadleigh Parkes (Grammar Carlton)
Malakai Fekitoa (Pakuranga)
Ben Lam (Grammar Carlton)
Charles Piutau (Pakuranga)

Reserves:

Nathan Vella (Grammar Carlton)
Charlie Faumuina (Papatoetoe)
Nathan Hughes (Suburbs)
Sean Polwart (University)
Wayne Ngaluafe (Ponsonby)
Simon Hickey (Grammar Carlton)
Lolagi Visinia (Suburbs)