Thompson goes from friend to foe

THREAT: Former Canterbury centre Rob Thompson will be a key man for Manawatu at Christchurch Stadium tonight.

When Canterbury brushed aside Manawatu 57-7 in 2015, Rob Thompson was the man of the moment running in three tries.

But tonight he will be one of the biggest threats the red and blacks have to address.

The centre , who earned 49 caps for Canterbury, has been a standout for Manawatu in the opening three rounds of the Mitre 10 Cup, having scored on every occasion since making the move north.

When the two sides do battle at Christchurch Stadium tonight Canterbury coach Joe Maddock will be hoping his former player isn’t at his best.

“He’s a great player and we’ve seen what he’s done from Canterbury in the past and we’ve seen what he can do for Manawatu in the opening three games so he’s certainly someone we’ll have to keep an eye on,” said Maddock.

Meanwhile, Maddock’s midfield has been reinforced for tonight with the return of Scottish international Phil Burleigh who makes his return after sustaining a knee injury in Canterbury’s week one loss to Tasman.

“Experience is a big part of success in any Mitre 10 Cup team. We’ve had highly experienced players in the past so Phil [Burleigh] coming back in is a big boost. It also allows us to offload Sam Beard a little bit who has had three big weeks,” said Maddock.

Alongside Burleigh in the midfield is youngster Ngani Punivai, who starts in the 13 jersey for the second week running after making his first two Canterbury appearances from the bench.

“He’s got a few things in his game that he still needs to improve on, but for his third hit out he’s going alright,” said Maddock.

Canterbury v Manawatu kicks off at 7.35pm at Christchurch Stadium.

Canterbury squad to play Manawatu: Daniel Lienert Brown 1, Greg Pleasants-Tate 2, Chris King 3, Mitchell Dunshea 4, Hamish Dalzell 5, Reed Princep 6, Tom Sanders 7, Whetu Douglas 8, Connor Collins 9, Brett Cameron 10, Caleb Makene 11, Phil Burleigh 12, Ngane Punivai 13, Josh McKay 14, George Bridge 15.

Reserves: Nathan Vella, Harrison Allan, Sef Fa’agese, Luke Romano, Tom Christie, Mitchell Drummond, Sam Beard, Filimoni