Wellington will look to cement their place atop the ITM Cup standings when they take on Auckland on Saturday.
Wellington look to cement their place atop the ITM Cup standings when they take on Auckland at Eden Park.
The Lions will begin another run of three matches in quick succession this weekend – the side's first game of three in eight days.
After the Auckland match, the team will stay on the road as they travel to Mount Maunganui to take on Bay of Plenty next Tuesday. To cap off the week the Lions will return home to host North Harbour.
Saturday will be the 41st between between the two sides – Auckland hold the advantage in the history books, claiming 26 wins over Wellington's 14.
Wellington's matchday 22 has only one change this weekend. Ross Filipo has returned from injury and will come off the bench in the number 21 jersey.
Meanwhile, Auckland head coach Wayne Pivac has made three changes to his starting XV, with two of those injury enforced. Ben Lam comes onto the wing to replace George Moala who broke his leg in Wednesday's match against Taranaki.
While Moala has unfortunately been ruled out for the rest of the ITM Cup season, in a positive it was just the fibula he fractured which will see him miss six weeks but return in time for the Super Rugby competition.
With Peter Saili going under the knife to repair a broken thumb, Joe Edwards will make his first start of the season at number eight.
It is a great birthday present for Edwards who turned 19 years of age this week, and Pivac said the youngster was looking forward to the challenge.
“He's come on in games so far and made a great impact and done well. He gets an opportunity to start so that's a fresh challenge for him,” Pivac said.
“If you look at Ardie Savea in the Wellington team, he's 18 years of age so it just goes to show this competition is throwing up some great young players and it'll be great to see them go head to head.”
With a short turnaround following Wednesday's game, Ofa Tu'ungafasi has been named on the bench, with Angus Ta'avao switching to tighthead as Pauliasi Manu starts at loosehead.
Pivac said the match would be a big test for his team.
“It's going to be a huge challenge for a number of reasons,” he said.
“None bigger I guess than the short turn around but certainly that comes down to our preparation in a short space of time, it's really a mental attitude and the players are aware of that. Other teams have turned around good performances and there's no reason we can't.
“The fact that we're playing at home is big for this team with a lot of young players, they love playing here and so hopefully that will negate the freshness that Wellington will bring to the game but they're a strong side and they have quality players.”
Auckland: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Dave Thomas, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Joe Edwards, 7 Sean Polwart, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Andrew Van der Heijden, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Nathan Hughes, 19 Daniel Braid, 20 Auvasa Faleali'i, 21 Simon Hickey, 22 Lolagi Visinia.
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 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Lua Lokotui, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Jeremy Thrush (c), 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Eric Sione.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Solomona Sakalia, 18 Kaipati Gaualofa, 19 Genesis Mamea, 20 Kayne Hammington, 21 Ross Filipo, 22 Lima Sopoaga.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence