James Mortimer 26.Jul.2012Getty Images
Taranaki coach Colin Cooper has named a 28-man squad to prepare for defending the Log o’Wood, claimed after the amber and blacks defeated Southland 15-12 at Rugby Park Stadium on August 24 last year.
While Taranaki are without a host of Super Rugby players, namely captain Craig Clarke, there are still four selected – with Highlanders Jarrad Hoeata and Kurt Baker and Hurricanes Michael Bent and Jayden Hayward.
Cooper told the Taranaki Daily Times there were preparing for a tough challenge from King Country.
"A couple of players are carrying injuries and it's about managing those niggles," he said.
"The Super Rugby guys come back into the mix having got through the stand down period required by the Players' Association. They've all had limited playing time."
"They've (King Country) got a big scrum and a big lineout. They beat Whanganui 36-5 (last week) and they'll definitely be a challenge for us. They've been training the house down."
King Country coach Kurt McQuikin, a former Irish test representative and King Country stalwart during the eighties and nineties, said it was going to be the biggest game of some of his player’ careers.
"This is the biggest game of their lives," he said.
"Who knows, King Country may never get another challenge."
"We've been training since January and it hasn't been hard to get the players to practice.
“We've had full attendances. It's a bit of a challenge as to who gets there first. We're delighted to be playing for the Shield. We're indebted to the Taranaki union for giving us this opportunity."
The second Shield clash is against Whanganui in New Plymouth on August 4.
Taranaki squad for the first two Ranfurly Shield defences (v King Country and v Whanganui)
Carl Carmichael, Sione Lea, Timo Tutavaha, Laurence Corlett, Willie Ioane, Michael Bent. Leighton Price, Nemia Soqeta, Kane Barrett, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Berny Hall, Chris Walker, Mitchell Brown, Blade Thomson, Jarrad Hoeata, Kylem O'Donnell, Jamison Gibson-Park. First five-eighths: Jack Cameron, James Marshall, Isaia Tuifua, Willie Rickards (captain), Jayden Hayward, Avon Lewis, Seta Tamanivalu, Waisake Naholo, Frazier Climo, Jackson Ormond, Kurt Baker