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Will it be lucky number 14 for the Ranfurly Shield challengers?

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James Mortimer     23 Jul 2015     Getty Images

Visiting back row forward Jon Dampney will enter the record books for his province, named as captain for the challengers.

The number eight enter a small club of provincials players who have skippered their side in two consecutive Shield challenges, one year after losing to Counties in a Shield challenge during the 2014 season.

While the Steelers eventually ran out 46-10 winners, the Meads Cup champions came back strongly despite Tana Umaga’s side claiming an early 22 point lead.

Hooker Jon Sharpe and first five Murray Williams kept the pressure on the Counties but a strong finish by the former Shield holders saw them run out comfortable winners.

Now Hawke’s Bay hold the famous trophy, and will be looking to defend the Shield for the seventh time against the strongest opposition they have faced in 2015.

Having already conquered Wairarapa Bush (58-7) and Horowhenua Kapiti (50-16), Mid Canterbury would have noted that the Bay had some moments of vulnerability but their attacking class was too imposing in the end.

The green and yellows have selected a potent looking outfit, with the likes of Williams, Dampney, Tama Tuirirangi, Scott Vessey and Andrew Letham providing the experience.

While the local area is well represented with former Ashburton College backs Nete Caucau and Seta Koroitamana in the backline.

Dampney and his team have been preparing hard for this, despite the fact that many of the players are considered amateurs, but for 13 long weeks they have been building towards a contest that the captain knows will be intense and without respite.

“We learnt so much last year (against the Steelers),” he said.

“Just the speed and physicality, you can’t just fall in and out of the game, you’ve got to be on your game for 80 minutes.”

The Magpies have proven they have match finishing class, putting away Horo and the Bush with withering offensive bursts in the closing stages.

Coach Craig Philpott returns to mentor the Ranfurly Shield champions after being on New Zealand Barbarians duty last weekend, while experienced lock Mark Abbott returns to the starting XV for the holders.

The match kicks off at 19:35 (NZST) and the match will be broadcast on Sky Sport.

If the Bay are successful in fending off the Meads Cup holders, their next Shield challenge will be during the opening round of the 2015 ITM Cup, against Northland on August 16.

Hawke’s Bay:

Jason Long, Ricky Riccitelli, Mark Braidwood, Trent Boswell-Wakefield, Mark Abbott, Tony Lamborn, Brendon O’Connor (C), Joseph Penitito, Chris Eaton, Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald, Shannan Chase, Billy Ropiha, Jonah Lowe, Mason Emerson, Zac Guildford. Reserves: Jorian Tangaere, Mason Kean, Jarvy Aoake, Sanaila Waqa, Tom Stanley, Ellery Wilson, Ihaia West, Ryan Tongia.

Mid Canterbury:

Viliame Finau, Jackson Donlan, Tama Tuirirangi, Adaam Ross, Maikeli Mudu, Scott Vessey, Tevita Ula, Jon Dampney (C), Mavae Tomasi, Murray Williams, Seta Koroitamana, Nete Caucau, Tuamoheloa Fa’aitu, Dwayne Burrows, Andrew Letham. Reserves: James Annabel, Mark Andrew, Simon Fleetwood, Eric Duff, Tyler Koning, Will Mackenzie, Andy Hamilton, Ewan Scott.