All Blacks Nepo Laulala and Dalton Papali’i as well as World Cup winning former All Black skipper Kieran Read have been named in the Counties Manukau PIC Steelers side for their opening Mitre 10 Cup match against Tasman on Saturday night.
The three international stars will help form a near full-strength PIC Steelers outfit for coach Tai Lavea’s first game in charge.
Co-captains Lyndon Dunshea and Orbyn Leger have been named at lock and second-five respectively while impressive Ardmore Marist hooker Zuriel Togiatama gets first crack at the number two jersey with Chiefs squad member Donald Maka (concussion) out injured.
Bombay’s McNamara Cup-winning hooker Shaun Muir has this week been brought into the side as injury cover in the hooking position and has been named to come off the bench.
Veteran lock Matiaha Martin returns in the second row having missed all of last season with injury while experienced first-five Baden Kerr has been named to start in what will be his third stint with the province.
All Blacks Sevens star Sione Molia gets the nod at centre while Etene Nanai-Seturo gets first opportunity to play fullback.
For 128-test All Black Read it will be the first competition game he has played in the PIC Steelers jersey despite growing up in the region and supporting the province as a youngster.
“It is full circle for me, coming back here to play in front of a few fans that can turn up in Pukekohe here so I can’t wait,” Read said.
“I am some kind of minutes alert so they will get me as much as I can go and we have some good guys on the bench ready to come on.
“Tasman are going to be impressive so we need to come out and start well I think and put them under as much pressure as we can.
“It is good to get them early and a good test for us. We are looking forward to it.”
The PIC Steelers will face a stern test in the form of the reigning Mitre 10 Cup champion Tasman Makos, who will bring a star-studded side north to Navigation Homes Stadium.
Bubbles of 100 people will be in attendance for the sold out 7.05pm game.
Counties Manukau PIC Steelers: 1. Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 2. Zuriel Togiatama, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Matiaha Martin, 5. Lyndon Dunshea (capt), 6. Sam Slade, 7. Dalton Papali’i, 8. Kieran Read, 9. Jonathan Taumateine, 10. Baden Kerr, 11. Kalione Hala, 12. Orbyn Leger (capt), 13. Sione Molia, 14. Kiris Kuridrani, 15. Etene Nanai-Seturo. Reserves: Shaun Muir, Clinton Malolua, Conan O’Donnell, Potu Leavasa, Viliame Taulani, Johnny Kawau, Pele Cowley, Luteru Laulala.
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