Coach Tai Lavea has made a host of changes to the Counties Manukau PIC Steelers ahead of their week three Mitre 10 Cup clash with Northland at Navigation Homes Stadium in Pukekohe on Sunday.
Two-time World Cup winner and 128-test All Black Kieran Read returns at number eight for the province’s second home game of the season – once again played under crowd restrictions due to COVID-19 settings in Auckland.
His return offsets the loss of All Blacks Nepo Laulala and Dalton Papalii, who have assembled with the national squad ahead of the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.
Highlanders prop Conan O’Donnell gets his first start of the season as he replaces Laulala up front while Ardmore Marist’s Alamanda Motuga will make his PIC Steelers debut at open side flanker.
Latiume Fosita makes his first start of the second at second-five with skipper Orbyn Leger pushing out to centre.
Pukekohe winger Sione Fifita makes his first appearance of the season on the left wing, forming a lethal back three alongside Kirisi Kuridrani and Etene Nanai-Seturo.
Joseph Casey and Leigh Hughes have been named on the bench in what will be the pair’s first time being stripped for the season while Onewhero halfback Cameron Roigard is also handed a bench spot.
The match kicks-off at 4.35pm while the unbeaten Counties Power Heat face Northland from 2.05pm.
PIC Steelers: 1. Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 2. Zuriel Togiatama, 3. Conan O’Donnell, 4. Potu Leavasa, 5. Matiaha Martin, 6. Sam Slade, 7. Alamanda Motuga, 8. Kieran Read, 9. Jonathan Taumateine, 10. Baden Kerr, 11. Sione Fifita, 12. Latiume Fosita, 13. Orbyn Leger (capt), 14. Kirisi Kuridrani, 15. Etene Nanai-Seturo. Reserves: Joseph Casey, Leigh Hughes, Suetena Asomua, Mickey Woolliams, Jonathan Kawau, Cameron Roigard, Luteru Laulala, Jason Robertson.
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