Auckland coach Nick White has named a 37-strong squad for the 2016 Mitre 10 Cup season.
The squad includes the six Auckland All Blacks that took part in the June Test Series against Wales and a further 15 returning from Super Rugby duties.
Five players are in line for their provincial debut and further two, Latiume Fosita and Tyrone Elkington, will debut for Auckland after previously playing for Northland and Hawke’s Bay respectively.
Nine clubs are represented in the squad.
White announced first five-eighths Simon Hickey will again captain the team.
He said it was pleasing to be able to name the core of the squad that went through to play in the 2015 ITM Cup final.
“We had a lot of debutants in the squad last year, hopefully with most of them returning it will add strength to the team and a bit more experience,” said White.
“A lot of them have gained Super Rugby experience in 2016, they will be bringing back some of those professional rugby playing attitudes and disciplines which will take our squad to another level.”
White said a strong club rugby competition saw several players put their hand up for selection.
A strong campaign from College Rifles has seen backs Joe Ravouvou and Pasqualle Dunn selected, while leading premier point’s scorer Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald from University is also named. University outside back Liam Steel has sat out most of the season with injury but is expected to return to play during the campaign.
Manukau Rovers captain Siosiua Kaifa has been in impressive form for his club, following from being the Auckland B’s player of the year in 2015. Tongan International, Latiume Fosita returned to Auckland for club rugby in 2016 and has been rewarded with selection, Pakuranga prop James Lay rounds out the potential debutants.
“I’m very pleased with the club rugby competition this year. It’s great to be able to select seven players out of the club scene, based on their performances.
“They’ve led their clubs well and hopefully they can bring some of that into our team, that fresh excitement.”
The team will assemble later this month, with a camp in the first week of August. The season kicks off against Canterbury in Christchurch on August 20.
Charlie Faumuina (Papatoetoe)
Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Grammar TEC)
Sam Prattley (Pakuranga)
Marcel Renata (University)
Tom McHugh (Grammar TEC)
Isi Tu’ungafasi (Grammar TEC)
James Lay (Pakuranga)
Greg Pleasants-Tate (Ponsonby)
Kurt Eklund (University)
Patrick Tuipulotu (Ponsonby)
Scott Scrafton (Grammar TEC)
Michael Fatialofa (Ponsonby)
Liaki Moli (Manukau Rovers)
Ben Nee Nee (Pakuranga)
Jerome Kaino (University)
Steven Luatua (University)
Taleni Seu (Grammar TEC)
Siosiua (Josh) Kaifa (Manukau Rovers)
Blake Gibson (Ponsonby)
Sinclair Dominikovich-Murray (University)
Joe Edwards (Pakuranga)
Akira Ioane (Ponsonby)
Leon Fukofuka (Marist)
Jono Hickey (Grammar TEC)
Simon Hickey (Grammar TEC) – captain
Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald (University)
Calvary Fonoti (Manukau Rovers)
Latiume Fosita (Papatoetoe)
George Moala (Grammar TEC)
Malakai Fekitoa (Pakuranga)
Vince Aso (Ponsonby)
Rieko Ioane (Ponsonby)
Pasqualle Dunn (College Rifles)
Liam Steel (University)
Joe Ravouvou (College Rifles)
Lolagi Visinia (Suburbs)
Melani Nanai (Manukau Rovers)
Unavailable due to injury: Ben Lam, TJ Faiane, Lisati Milo-Harris