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PREVIEW: Wellington v Southland

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Thursday, September 29, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Wellington will have good cause to look at this encounter as a chance to pick up a bonus point win. They have lost only once this year, 21-44 to Otago and since then have dominated, especially in their games against Championship sides. Southland have had a miserable time of it and it is difficult to see any hopes of improvement on the broader stage in Wellington. They have only one win to date a 20-16 victory over Bay of Plenty.

Played: 95

Wins: Wellington 64, Southland 24, Drawn 7

Last match: Wellington 53 Southland 3, Invercargill 2015

Teams:

Wellington: 1.Haamea Ahio, 2.Leni Apisai, 3.Chris Baumann, 4.James Blackwell, 5.Sam Lousi, 6.Vaea Fifita, 7.Greg Foe, 8.Brad Shields, 9.Tomasi Palu, 10.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 11.Malo Tuitama, 12.Wes Goosen, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Jason Woodward, 15.Peter Umaga-Jensen.

Substitutes: 16.Asafo Aumua, 17.Alex Fidow, 18.Joe Apikotoa, 19.Mark Reddish, 20.Galu Taufale, 21.Sheridan Rangihuna, 22.Pakai Turia, 23.Mike Lealava'a.

Southland: 1.Joseph Walsh, 2.Jason Rutledge, 3.Guy Millar, 4.Mike Stewart, 5.Matthew Phillip, 6.Joshua Clark, 7.Tim Boys, 8.Mika Mafi, 9.Jahvis Wallace, 10.Wharenui Hawera, 11.Keanu Kahukura, 12.James Schrader, 13.Kieran Moffat,
14.Tauasosi Tuimavave, 15.Junior Ngaluafe.

Substitutes: 16.Brayden Mitchell, 17.Peni Ravai, 18.Reuben Northover, 19.Mike McKee, 20.Phil Halder, 21.Greg Dyer, 22.Jimmy Cowan, 23.Aleki Morris.

Squad Update: Wellington will have loose forward Vaea Fifita back in their side on the blindside of the scrum. That will see Brad Shields revert to No.8. In the front row Leni Apisai has recovered from concussion and will start at hooker while Reggie Goodes won't play due to illness and has been replaced by Ha'amea Ahio. Malo Tuitama will start on the wing while fullback Peter Umaga-Jensen returns after playing for Wellington's Under-19s. The other interesting selection is the choice of Wes Goodsen at second five-eighths ahead of Shaun Treeby.

Southland will be without wings Jaye Thompson-Te Muunu who has concussion while Mike Molloy has a rib injury with their places taken by Keanu Kahurua and Tauasosi Tuimavave respectively. Jason Rutledge will captain the side from hooker in order to give Brayden Mitchell a break after a hectic schedule. Halfback Jahvis Wallace will make his starting debut for the side while Mike Mafi will start at No.8 with Josh Clark moving to the blindside flank. Mike Steward will start at lock.

Key Players: While rotation makes good sense against the poorly-performing Southland side, Wellington still have the look of solidity about their side. Their loose forwards especially will be a handful for the southerners while with Goosen pairing with Matt Proctor in the mid-field there is the potential for some fireworks.

Southland have taken the chance to rest some of their regular starters, notably Brayden Mitchell and Jimmy Cowan, both of whom have been named on the bench but it is difficult to see anything but a tough night defensively for the southerners in Wellington.