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Preview: Canterbury v Otago

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Sportal.co.nz     12 Sep 2013     Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 159; Canterbury 86, Otago 63, drawn 10.

LAST TIME: August 27, 2011 (Dunedin) – Otago 16-29 Canterbury.

MISSING IN ACTION: Joe Moody's return from shoulder injury is one of a number of changes to the starting line-up that overwhelmed Bay of Plenty. Jed Brown makes his debut in the No.7 jersey while Willi Heinz starts at halfback and Tom Taylor returns from injury and slots in at fullback.

Otago's Hugh Blake returns from injury to take his place at flanker while Gareth Evans, who missed Tasman's game with an ankle sprain. Liam Coltman and Tom Donnelly also return to the starting line-up.

FORM: Canterbury have been one of the standout teams in the competition to date. Their water-tight defence has conceded just 47 points in four matches at less than 12 points per game. Not bad when you consider they've scored 153 in those same four matches. They've scored as many points as Auckland but have a game in hand such is their dominance.

In their last two matches Canterbury have scored 95 points while conceding 28, hardly a comforting statistic for an Otago side who like to score from broken play.

Otago are no mugs on attack, but have been leaking points since their Ranfurly Shield defeat to Hawke's Bay. They looked visibly flat in their 19-46 hammering at the hands of Tasman – their first loss in eight matches against the competition's newest union to sink to a pretty deep low.

Fortunately for the visitors they have some potent attacking weapons in the reliable Hayden Parker at first five-eighths and halfback Fumiaki Tanaka steering the forward pack. If the two fire, there could be a bit of danger for Canterbury to look out for.

WE THINK: Canterbury's dominant start to the ITM Cup will continue for at least another week, while Otago's post-Shield slump will also carry on for another round.

Canterbury's defence has seen them concede more than 15 points just once this season, while Otago have conceded almost three times as many points (117).

Taylor's return bolsters a side that will have plenty of kicking options.
Expect a territorial battle before Canterbury release their potent backline on a nervy Otago defence. Canterbury by 18.

TEAMS:
Canterbury:
1. Joe Moody, 2. Ben Funnell, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Luke Katene, 5. Matt Symons, 6. George Whitelock (c), 7. Jed Brown, 8. Jordan Taufua, 9. Willi Heinz, 10. Tyler Bleyendaal, 11. Milford Keresoma, 12. Ryan Crotty, 13. Adam Whitelock, 14. Patrick Osborne, 15. Tom Taylor.

Substitutes: 16. Corey Flynn, 17. Paea Fa'anunu, 18. Joel Everson, 19. Luke Whitelock, 20. Andy Ellis, 21. Rob Thompson, 22. Johnny McNicholl.

Otago:
1. Craig Millar, 2. Liam Coltman, 3. Scott Manson, 4. Tom Donnelly, 5. Tom Franklin, 6. Gareth Evans, 7. Hugh Blake, 8. Paul Grant (c), 9. Fumiaki Tanaka, 10. Hayden Parker, 11. Fa'asiu Fuatai, 12. Jayden Spence, 13. Kieran Moffatt, 14. Matt Faddes, 15. Peter Breen.

Substitutes: 16. Sam Anderson-Heather, 17. Tama Tuirirangi, 18. Charlie O'Connell, 19. TJ Ioane, 20. Willis Scott, 21. Josh Renton, 22. Michael Collins.