Kaino to return for Auckland

Jerome Kaino. Photo: Getty Images
Jerome Kaino. Photo: Getty Images
Jerome Kaino will play his first match for Auckland since 2010 when he takes the field against Taranaki at Eden Park on Saturday.

Kaino left the All Blacks squad in Sydney on the day of the test against the Wallabies on August 19 due to family reasons and hasn't played a match since the All Blacks "game of three halves" warm-up game in Pukekohe on August 11.

The 34-year-old will play at No8 and coach Nick White is grateful for the player's availability after watching his side lose 57-10 to North Harbour last weekend.

"He's been good with us this week. Obviously he'd rather be back with the ABs, but it's great to have him back in our environment," said White.

"We'll expect the usual Jerome, physical in contact, and we need him to lead as well. We've had a few niggles in the loose forwards, so his experience will be invaluable.

"It's been a tough week, but we are not shying away from that or getting too emotional," White said about the response to the Harbour thrashing. "It's about finding solutions and this group here is the only one that can make it right."

There are six changes to the starting XV and several injury-enforced changes to the bench.

Midfielder George Moala has a slight hamstring injury which has put his 50th game for the union on hold for at least a week.

Jordan Trainor returns at fullback, while University No 10 Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald will make his fifth appearance for Auckland after being promoted from the Bs.

Openside flanker Blake Gibson is back after two days with the All Blacks. Isi Tu'ungafasi replaces the injured Sam Prattley at loosehead prop.

There are potential debuts off the bench for Ponsonby prop Marco Fepuleai and University lock Lyndon Dunshea, while five-eighths cover and Ikale Tahi international Latiume Fosita could become the first full Auckland rep out of the Mt Wellington club if he takes the field.

All the players will run out wearing their club socks as the union celebrates Community Day.

The Auckland team to play Taranaki at Eden Park on Saturday, kick-off 2.25pm is:

Jordan Trainor, Vince Aso, Malakai Fekitoa, TJ Faiane, Pryor Collier, Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald, Jono Hickey, Jerome Kaino, Blake Gibson, Taleni Seu, Ben Nee-Nee, Patrick Tuipulotu, Marcel Renata, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Isi Tu'ungafasi

Reserves: Kurt Eklund, Emersen Tamura-Paki, Marco Fepuleai, Lyndon Dunshea, Sinclair Dominikovich-Murray/Josh Kaifa, Lisati Milo-Harris, Latiume Fosita, Tumua Manu

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