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Otago Country starts its representative season today when it travels to Tuatapere to take on Southland Country.
Otago Country coach Marty Hurring has picked a very strong squad which features plenty of experience, some exciting youthful talent and even two players who have represented Otago.
The Otago Country forward pack has size and agility. Its front rowers are very mobile and will get through plenty of work.
Roxburgh's Ben Millar, who played for Otago against Thames Valley, will be keen to feature strongly again as he did last season. Arrowtown props Matt Flower and Tom McKenzie are rewarded for a strong club season, as is Clutha hooker Josh Turnbull.
Cromwell's Alex Grogan and Upper Clutha's Brendon Murdoch add size and skill. Both have extremely good hands which adds an extra dimension to their game. Grogan especially was strong in the warm-up game against the Sassenachs last weekend.
The loose forwards have experience. Sam Calder and Cole Birse are retained from last season while Nick Egerton and Nemo Gent from Arrowtown and Connor Mills from Clutha will shine if given an opportunity.
The Otago Country backs are just as experienced with halves Ben Maxwell and Harley McHardy returning. Clutha's Ollie Kenny has been rewarded with a spot in the squad.
Upper Clutha pivot Brodie Flannery has featured for Country in the past.
Country's strength is in its midfield where it has plenty of options.
Cromwell's Hayden Todd featured for Otago in its Ranfurly Shield defence in Oamaru and could pair up with Cromwell partner Rhys Harrold. Crescent's Chase Owen and Upper Clutha strike weapon Oliver Stirling are also viable options.
Outside backs Robin Fesilafai (Clutha), Ryan Egerton (Arrowtown) and Warwick Cheney (Cromwell) are all dangerous with ball in hand.
The game kicks off at 3pm today.
- By Francis Parker