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Preview: Wellington v Manawatu

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Friday, October 9, 2015    ITMCup.co.nz    Getty Images

Form: Wellington play a gruelling fourth game in 13 days to finish off their campaign. Any signs of fatigue have been blown out with a 31-13 win over Bay of Plenty after an earlier 22-22 draw with Hawke's Bay and a 21-14 win over Waikato a week before. Boasting the second highest number of tries (38), the second-best lineout (91.5 percent), clean breaks (110) and carries (1239) in the competition, the hosts will feel a significant dose of confidence heading into the playoffs.

By contrast, Manawatu have struggled to fire all season. With just 14 points from nine games, the visitors sit two points adrift of Waikato in last in the Premiership. Manawatu need a bonus point-tie in order to grab three competition points and move above Waikato and keep the heat on the Mooloo men in their final match of the season. The heat is on for Jason O'Halloran's men.

Played: 70
Wins: Wellington 50 Manawatu 16 Draws 4
Last Time: Wellington 21 Manawatu 27, Wellington 2014

Teams:
WELLINGTON: 1.Reggie Goodes, 2.James O'Reilly, 3.Ben May, 4.Jeremy Thrush, 5.James Blackwell, 6.Henry Stowers, 7.Greg Foe, 8.Ardie Savea (captain), 9.Frae Wilson, 10.Jonny Bentley, 11.Sam McNicol, 12.Marvin Karawana, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Jason Woodward, 15.Cory Jane.

Reserves: 16.Leni Apisai, 17.Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, 18.Vince Sakaria, 19.Hoani Matenga, 20.Isaac O'Connor, 21.Tomasi Palu, 22.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23.Tomasi Alosio.

MANAWATU: 1.Adrian Barone, 2.Nick Grogan, 3.Michael Alaalatoa, 4.Fraser Stone, 5.Tom Parsons, 6.Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 7.Callum Gibbins (captain), 8.Brice Henderson, 9.Toby Morland, 10.Otere Black, 11.Nathan Tudreu, 12.Hamish Northcott, 13.Jason Emery, 14.Newton Tudreu, 15.Ambrose Curtis.

Reserves: 16.Rob Foreman, 17.Hakarangi Tichborne, 18.Tim Cadwallader, 19.Valentino Mapapalangi, 20.Antonio Kiri Kiri, 21.Kayne Hammington, 22.Sam Malcolm, 23.Jaxon Tagavaitau.

Squad Update: Reggie Goodes returns to the front row, while Jonny Bentley and Marvin Karawana also feature in the starting line-up. It's not all good news for the Lions however, with Adam Deck and Wes Goosen both suffering high ankle sprains. Vaea Fifita (calf) remains out for Wellington, however Joe Hill (ankle sprain) could return in the first week of the playoffs.

As for the visitors Fraser Armstrong (concussion) is out for Manawatu, while Brice Henderson returns from an arm injury.

Key Players: Goodes' return will be a big boost for the hosts, and his partnership with Jeffery To'omaga-Allen in the front row will relieve Lions fans as they eye the Championship playoffs. Ardie Savea has added another feather to his cap at the back of the scrum in the absence of the injured Brad Shields.

Ambrose Curtis will be looking for some vintage form against his former side on Saturday, while Hakarangi Tichborne's inclusion on the bench should see him get an opportunity to press for further game time in 2016.