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Ray Nu’u does not shy away from the fact he wanted to crack Mitre 10 Cup rugby with Canterbury.
However, the road to that goal looked congested so he opted to change direction and take the open highway to Mitre 10 Cup rugby with the Southland Stags.
Nu’u (20) had worked with Stags assistant coach Dale MacLeod while playing for the Sydenham club in Christchurch, which sparked the initial discussion about a move to Southland.
Today in Invercargill the second five-eighth will make his first start at Mitre 10 Cup level when the Stags take on Counties-Manuka in the round four fixture at 2.05pm in Invercargill.
While home is Christchurch, Nu’u has quickly realised what rugby and the Stags mean to Southland and he is ready to mark his mark in the maroon jersey.
"I’m super excited to play in front of home — my new home," Nu’u said.
"I’m really motivated to get that win for the boys. This is a really proud province. I talk to people and they are right behind the Stags."
Nu’u has trialled for the New Zealand under 20 team and was part of the Crusaders Knights development team this year, which boosted his desire to play in the Mitre 10 Cup.
His start with Southland was stalled by an ankle injury which ruled him out for five weeks.
He made his first appearance off the bench in the 52-7 loss to Wellington last Friday night and now it is over to Nu’u to add some needed punch to the Stags attack.
Stags coach Dave Hewett was pleased with what Nu’u added against Wellington when he came on.
"He was a bit of a bright patch for us from the Wellington game. When he came on he actually made a difference — he got a bit of go forward and defensively he was really good. He was coming back from a five-week injury so that was really good.
"Now he has got the opportunity to start and he is chomping at the bit, looking to play some real Mitre 10 Cup rugby and it’s against Counties so I’m looking forward to see him go."
Nu’u’s inclusion in the midfield is one of seven changes to the Stags’ starting line-up which played against Wellington.
Loosehead props Joe Walsh and Shaun Stodart are both out injured, which means usual tighthead prop Chris Apoua gets his first start for Southland on the loosehead side of the scrum.
Morgan Mitchell returns from injury and replaces Reuben Northover on the tighthead side of the scrum to make it an entirely new front row. Australian Andrew Ready will start at hooker.Hewett said it was a simple case of managing frontline hooker Flynn Thomas’ workload.
Ben Fotheringham will start at lock, replacing Manaaki Selby-Rickit, while Bill Fukofuka will slot into the No8 position and Tony Lamborn drops to the bench.
Fullback Tauasosi Tuimavave will again miss today’s game through injury and while Broc Hooper started in the No15 jersey against Wellington, this week Lewis Ormond will get the opportunity at fullback.
- Logan Savory
Southland v Counties-Manukau
Invercargill, today, 2.05pm
Southland: Lewis Ormond, Isaac Te Tamaki, Matt Johnson, Ray Nu’u, Jackson Ormond, James Wilson (captain), Jay Renton, Bill Fukofuka, Phil Halder, Wade McRae, Ray Tatafu, Ben Fotheringham, Morgan Mitchell, Andrew Ready, Chris Apoua. Reserves: Flynn Thomas, Ethan de Groot, Reuben Northover, Brenton Howden, Jack Capil, Nico Costa, Broc Hooper, Aleki Morris-Lome.
Counties: Luteru Laulala, Nigel Ah Wong, Sam Furniss, Cardiff Vaega, Tevita Nabura, Latume Fosita, Te Aike Toma, Dan Hyatt, Fotu Lokotui, Matt Vaai, Matiaha Martin, Viliame Rarasea, Sean Bagstaw, Joe Royal, Kalolo Tuiloma. Reserves: Gafatasi Su’a, Mark Royal, Coree Te Whata Colley, Savelio Ropati, Sikeli Nabou, Liam Daniela, Orbyn Leger, Etene Nanai-Seturo.