Auckland trio fit for Lions clash

Junior All Blacks Joe Rokocoko, Ben Atiga and Saimone Taumoepeau will start for Auckland against the British and Irish Lions today.

Junior All Blacks Joe Rokocoko, Ben Atiga and Saimone Taumoepeau will start for Auckland against the British and Irish Lions today.

Auckland coach Pat Lam had bracketed the trio in his initial team announcement on Sunday in order to assess their fitness following the Junior All Blacks’ three-match tour to Australia.

Rokocoko and Taumoepeau scored tries in their 34-31 win over Australia A last Friday and only returned to New Zealand on Saturday, while Atiga – who was released from the squad prior to Friday’s match – has been carrying a few bumps and bruises.

However, Lam is satisfied all three have fully recovered and they will take their places in the starting line-up, with Rokocoko on the left wing, Atiga at centre and Taumoepeau in the front row against the midweek Lions side.

Auckland backs coach Shane Howarth is looking forward to seeing a rejuvenated Rokocoko against the tourists.

Poor form cost the left wing his place in the All Blacks’ Test team and he has spent the past few weeks playing with the New Zealand Sevens side in London and Paris and the Junior All Blacks as he tried to rediscover the form that has seen him score 27 tries in 23 Tests.

“He’s come off a pretty good Junior All Blacks tour,” Howarth said. “It’s a confidence thing with Joe and hopefully we can get some ball out to him and let the people of Britain and New Zealand see how good he is.”

Auckland: Ward, Nacewa, Atiga, Tuitupou, Rokocoko, Lavea, Devine, Taumoepeau, Telefoni, Afoa, Mika, B. Williams, Collins, Braid, MacDonald. Replacements: Fonokalafi, Heard, Haiu, Kaino, Moa, Toe’ava, G. Williams.

British & Irish Lions: Murphy, Cueto, Greenwood, D’Arcy, Hickie, Hodgson, Dawson, Rowntree, Bulloch, Hayes, Shaw, Kay, J. White, M. Williams, Owen. Replacements: Titterrell, tevens, Cockbain, Corry, Cusiter, O’Gara, Horgan.

Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand).

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