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Air New Zealand Cup - Round 3 Preview
All Blacks bolster domestic ranks
Scrum.com
August 12, 2009

Round three of the Air New Zealand Cup rolls in to action this week with Bay of Plenty, Southland and Wellington out to extend their unbeaten starts to the tournament.

The round kicks off in Dunedin on Thursday, when Otago host North Harbour. The home side are still looking for their first win of the season and will face a Harbour side that has been bolstered by All Black Luke McAlister, who starts at fly-half.

Harbour coach Crag Dowd has rung the changes after last weekend's loss to Tasman, with openside flanker Malakai Ravulo, prop James Afoa and No.8 Richard Mayhew named to start in place of Robbie Colhoun, Michael Reid and Viliame Ma'afu respectively. Hooker Michael Mayhew replaces James Parson, who has a broken arm, while wing Rudi Wulf and scrum-half Chris Smylie also miss out due to injury.

Alando Soakai leads Otago, with All Black flanker Adam Thomson continuing his recovery from injury with another start. Sam Hibbard starts ahead of former All Black Kees Meeuws in the front-row and Luke Herden replaces Andrew Parata in the centres.

On Friday, Canterbury face Waikato after both sides notched their first wins of the season last weekend. Canterbury again call on the services of Dan Carter at fly-half, while there is another high-profile return as Kieran Read slots in at No.8.

Waikato have been hit by an injury to back-row Sione Lauaki, forcing a reshuffle. Jordan Smiler has been drafted in on the blindside flank, with skipper Liam Messam shifting to No.8.

Southland will be looking for their third win of the tournament against Manawatu later on Friday, with All Black scrum-half Jimmy Cowan bolstering their effort. The impressive Robbie Robinson shifts to fullback, with James Wilson taking over fly-half duties.

Manawatu lost out to Waikato last weekend despite the best efforts of fly-half Aaron Cruden, who again starts in the No.10 jersey alongside Aaron Smith. Flanker Josh Bradnock leads the side.

Auckland hope to arrest their slide this weekend against Northland, and have been bolstered by their returning All Blacks. Joe Rokocoko and Isaia Toeava start at wing and fullback respectively, with John Afoa packing down in the front-row.

Northland again call on the services of Lachie Munro at fly-half after he powered them to victory over Taranaki last round. Munro partners Luke Hamilton at half-back, while fullback Jared Payne leads the side from a back-three also including Rene Ranger and Troy Woodman.

Taranaki will be looking to bounce back against Hawke's Bay, who suffered a difficult second round with a loss to Wellington. Taranaki welcome back All Black Jason Eaton to their second-row, with Nathan Hohaia shifting from wing to centre after Willie Rickards' season was ended by a hand ligament injury. Scott Waldrom starts on the openside after returning from injury last weekend.

Wellington coach Jamie Joseph has angered the All Black management with his refusal to select Cory Jane, Piri Weepu and Neemia Tialata for their game with Bay of Plenty, the former All Black preferring to maintain the balance of his side. No.8 Rodney So'oialo starts on the replacements bench, Jospeh sticking with his back-row of Mathew Luamanu, Scott Fuglistaller and Victor Vito.

Bay of Plenty go in to the game without coach Greg Smith, who has left his post by mutual consent, Sean Horan and Steve Miln taking the reins. Colin Bourke leads the side, with Sevens specialist Zar Lawrence at fullback.

The round concludes with Counties Manukau travelling to face Tasman. Andrew Goodman and Kahn Fotuali'I start at half-back for the home side, with former All Black squad member Ben Franks adding his weight to the front-row.

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