Wellington get their 2012 ITM Cup campaign under way with a tough crossover clash against Manawatu at FMG Stadium on Friday.
Wellington get their 2012 ITM Cup campaign under way with a tough crossover clash against Manawatu at FMG Stadium in Palmertson North on Friday.
When these two sides met last year, the Turbos silenced the Lions with a 31-25 win in Wellington. So the men from the New Zealand capital will be on high alert heading into their tournament opener against last year's Championship finalists.
However, the visitors did get the better of their hosts in the pre-season.
Manawatu enter this clash minus two of their biggest stars – Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden, who are both on All Blacks duty. But the home side still includes Highlanders blindside Nick Crosswell and prop Ma'afu Fia, as well as Chiefs wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma and lock Mike Fitzgerald.
There are seven Wellington debutants in the Lions' 22 – four of the first timers are in the starting line-up, including Ardie Savea (brother of Julian), who'll wear the number eight jersey.
Ex-All Blacks lock Ross Filipo will play his 50th match for Wellington in what is in first in New Zealand in four years. Tim Bateman plays his first match for the Lions at fly-half, and it will be interesting to see how the former Canterbury centre adapts in that position.
Wellington: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Matt Proctor, 10 Tim Bateman, 9 Frae Wilson, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Scot Fuglistaller, 6 Mark Reddish, 5 Ross Filipo, 4 Jeremy Thrush (c), 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Arden David-Perrot, 18 Whetu Henry, 19 Lua Lokotui, 20 Genesis Mamea, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Ambrose Curtis
Manawatu: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Craig Clare, 13 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 12 Frankie Bryant, 11 Junior Tomasi Cama, 10 Nathan George, 9 Karl Bryson, 8 Hamish Gosling, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Nick Crosswell (c), 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Fraser Stone, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Rob Foreman, 1 Eric Fry.
Replacements: 16 Bryn Templeman, 17 David Te Moana, 18 Reece Robinson, 19 James Oliver, three backs reserves TBC
Referee: Bryce Lawrence
Tasman v Crusaders
Canterbury kick-off their ITM Cup title defence against Championship division neighbours Tasman on Friday.
New coach Tabai Matson has named a strong starting 15 that includes a mix of youth and experience.
Willi Heinz captain's the side and will start at halfback meaning former All Black Andy Ellis will come off the bench for what would be his 50th cap for the franchise
The past three meetings between Canterbury and Tasman have been close affairs with only three points on average separating the two sides.
Tasman: 15 Robbie Malneek,14 Peter Betham, 13 Bryce Heem,12 Andrew Goodman (c), 11 James Lowe, 10 Hayden Cripps, 9 Jeremy Su'a, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Shane Christie,6 Joe Wheeler, 5 Tevita Cavubati,4 Filipo Levi,3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Sam Prattley,
Replacements: 16 Francis Smith, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Vernon Fredricks, 19 Tevita Kolomatangi, 20 Steve Alfeld, 21 Kieron Fonotia, 22 George Millar.
Canterbury: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Luke Whitelock, 5 Dom Bird, 4 Luke Katene, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Paea Fa'anunu, 18 Joel Everson, 19 George Whitelock, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Ryan Crotty, 22 Telusa Veainu.
Referee: Richard Kelly