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Preview: Wellington v Northland

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Friday, August 28, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Last season Northland inflicted one of the worst defeats of the year on Wellington in their dismal winter and that should be motivation aplenty for a Lions side which has already beaten last season's ITM Cup winner Taranaki and achieved an unanswered 43 points against North Harbour.

Northland has battled, however, going down to fellow Championship sides Hawke's Bay 10-39 and Southland 18-27.

Wellington has looked as if it means business and has been embarrassed into achieving a return to the Premiership as quickly as possible. Their forwards are proving much more capable this time around and that is what a hesitant Northland side are going to have to cope with away from home.

Played: 34
Wins: Wellington 23, Northland 9, Drawn 2
Last match: Wellington 5, Northland 35, Whangarei 2014

Squad Update: Victor Vito and a bracketed Jeffery To'omaga-Allen are the new faces in the Wellington side. Vito will play No.8 with Vaea Fifita moving to lock and Brad Shields on the blindside flank.

To'omaga-Allen's ankle will need to come through pre-game training for him to take his place. The starting backline is the same as for last week.

Lock Sean Sweetman will make his debut for the side with Josh Goodhue out of action due to a foot injury. Troy Gilbert and Jordan Hyland have been preferred in the midfield.

Signs are that the side may not be too far from having the experience of flanker Dan Pryor available next week and five-eighths Dan Bowden in two to three weeks.

Teams:

Wellington: 1.Reggie Goodes, 2.Leni Apisai, 3.Jeffery To'omaga-Allen/Joe Apikotoa, 4.Vaea Fifita, 5.Hoani Matenga, 6.Brad Shields (captain), 7.Ardie Savea, 8.Victor Vito, 9.Frae Wilson, 10.Johnny Bentley, 11.Wes Goosen, 12.Shaun Treeby, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Joe Hill, 15.Cory Jane.

Reserves: 16.James O'Reilly, 17.Vince Sakaria, 18.Joe Apikotoa/Finnbarr Kerr-Newell, 19.James Blackwell, 20.Adam Hill, 21.Adam Deck, 22.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23.Marvin Karawana.

Northland: 1.Howard Sililoto, 2.Matt Moulds (captain), 3.Namatahi Waa, 4.Sean Sweetman, 5.Michael Stofberg, 6.Shane Neville, 7.Kara Pryor, 8.Taniela Manu, 9.Sam Nock, 10.Dan Hawkins, 11.Jone Macilai, 12.Troy Gilbert, 13.Jordan Hyland, 14.Waisea Lawbuka, 15.Mathew Wright.

Reserves: 16.Jordan Olsen, 17.Ross Wright, 18.Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19.Jaycob Matiu, 20.Dan O'Rourke, 21.Kurt Davies, 22.Warren Dunn, 23.Dave Thomas.

Key Players:

Northland will be tested across the field. Much of their preparation has centred on containing the threat that fullback Cory Jane represents but with Ardie Savea back in the frame at flanker, backed by Brad Shields and Victor Vito in the loose Wellington will be well covered in that area.

The tight forwards should feature in a bruising encounter with Northland looking to contain the Wellington threat. Wellington will be looking to get their backline into play to take the pressure off the forward encounters. First five-eighths Dan Hawkins is vital to Northland for his goal-kicking ability to keep the side in the hunt. Wing Jone Macilai is always a threat but needs quality ball to be seen to maximum effect.