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Many questions over backline

Tim Priest, might have inside running for first-five role. PHOTO/FILE

By Gary Caffell
Just who plays where in the backline is exercising the minds of management as Wairarapa-Bush prepares for their opening Heartland championship rugby match with King Country at Memorial Park, Masterton, on Saturday.
Head coach Josh Syms and assistants James Bruce and Joe Harwood had several possible combinations to consider going into last night’s training session, with about the only certainty being that the very much in-form Tasman “import” John Ika will start at halfback.
The pivotal first-five role looks to be a straight choice between Tim Priest and Glen Walters with Priest perhaps having the inside running after his solid showing against Whanganui last weekend. That won’t mean that Walters will necessarily miss out, however, as he too is in good form. He has the versatility to basically play anywhere in the backline and it wouldn’t surprise if he ended up on the wing for this particular game.
Another of the Tasman “imports”, Izaq Foa’i, would have been a strong contender for the second-five berth but he is still struggling with the injury he suffered in the win over Poverty Bay a couple of weekends ago and regular from last season Andy Humberstone has become the more likely choice.
If there are no hiccups in obtaining the necessary clearances, former All Black Zac Guildford will very probably make his debut for Wairarapa-Bush in the Heartland championship at centre but there were no guarantees that would happen at the time these notes were penned. If Guildford isn’t available then Robbie Anderson would have to be a chance for the No 13 jersey and Walters could be considered as well.
The soundness of Corey McFadzean means he could edge out the likes of Cameron Hayton and Nick Olson for a wing berth while the return to fitness means the pacy Sam Monaghan, not long back from spending last winter overseas, would have to be the likely choice at fullback. Here too Olson, Walters, McFadzean, Guildford and even Priest provide other options.
The forward selection isn’t exactly a done thing either. For instance there is little to choose between Abe Haira and Richard Puddy at hooker and while the two Andrews, Smith and McLean, are the probable starters in the middle row Lachie McFadzean and James Goodger could be considered, Goodger must also be a leading prospect for a loose forward role where Eddie Cranston, Sam Gammie and Brendan Campbell also have to be in the mix.
King Country, for their part, will be a dangerous opponent. They have had the benefits of a Ranfurly Shield challenge as part of their lead-up and while they didn’t lock horns with Wairarapa-Bush last season they did beat them in the opening game of the 2014 Heartland championship.

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