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Heartland Championship Round One: Preview

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Thursday, August 22, 2019    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Meads Cup defenders Thames Valley, who gave Otago a tough Ranfurly Shield challenge, being up 13-0 at one stage, before Otago finished a 41-21 winner, will play Poverty Bay.

Thames Valley showed the benefit of having former French Test player Raphael Ibanez on its coaching staff and it will be interesting to see how that affects their play during the rest of the season.

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Horowhenua Kapiti, the Lochore Cup winners will be away to Mid Canterbury, the side they beat in last year's semifinal.

Buller, who failed to make the playoffs last year, will host East Coast, a side looking to end a 42-games losing streak (their last win was in 2013) and with former All Black Zac Guildford and former Taranaki captain Mitchell Crosswell in their ranks this year they will have every incentive.

South Canterbury, who lost to Thames Valley in the Meads Cup final, will host neighbour North Otago, a beaten semifinalist in the Lochore Cup. North Otago have also had the benefit of a Ranfurly Shield challenge, losing 14-49 to Otago.

Wairarapa Bush face a tough opener when hosting Wanganui. They will be captained by lock James Goodger, who reached 50 games for the Union last year.

Inia Katia, who has 73 games for the side will be back at fullback.

A feature of the side is the inclusion of four Tufuga brothers, props Max and Sam, No.8 Kirk and second five-eighths Ueata.

Completing the round will be West Coast hosting beaten Meads Cup semifinalist King Country.

Adding some sting to the round will be the knowledge that missing from the second week of the competition will be players selected in the New Zealand Heartland side to play Samoa in the Pasifika Challenge II at Eden Park next weekend.

Wins on week one could be vital for those teams with several players included in the national side in week two.

The Heartland side selected is based on last year's form and will be the first international the side has played.

Games are:

Saturday 24 August


2pm
Thames Valley v Poverty Bay, Paeroa

2.30pm

Buller v East Coast, Westport
Mid Canterbury v Horowhena Kapiti, Ashburton
South Canterbury v North Otago, Timaru
Wairarapa Bush v Wanganui, Masterton
West Coast v King Country, Greymouth