Preview: Wellington v Auckland

Date published: October 4 2013

Wellington welcome Cory Jane, Alapati Leiua, and Api Naikatini from injury for Saturday's clash with Auckland at Westpac Stadium.

Wellington welcome Cory Jane, Alapati Leiua, and Api Naikatini from injury for Saturday's top-of-the-table clash with Auckland at Westpac Stadium.

Leiua and Naikatini will start the match, while Cory Jane is set to make an appearance off the bench.

Lions coach Chris Boyd said the team was focused on bringing a greater level of consistency to what they know will be a physical encounter.

“Auckland's probably the most physical team in the competition, so we're expecting a high level of physicality and we'll have to work hard to combat that,” he explained.

“We've got three players who have had long-term injuries all coming back at the same time which we're pleased about.

“In saying that, I'm very happy with the guys who have shouldered the workload in the meantime, they've done a great job.”

Tim Bateman is also back in the starting line-up after a spell last week, while John Schwalger rotates in for Reggie Goodes. Adam Hill also slots back into the 22 this week.

The Lions have not beaten Auckland since 2009, and are determined to put an end to that record.

Meanwhile, Auckland boss Wayne Pivac has made just one change to his starting XV this encounter.

As he has done throughout the season, Pivac has rotated his props and brought loosehead Pauliasi Manu into the run-on team in place of Sam Prattley who shifts to the bench.

While Pivac was thrilled with last week's victory over Canterbury, he said the team had moved on and were fully focussed on putting together another strong performance against Wellington.

“We always knew we had three big games to finish with Canterbury, Wellington and Otago but certainly the two big ones in the Premiership, so it's half the job done really and that's been our focus for the week making sure we can back that performance up from last week,” he said.

Pivac believed Wellington would pose a much sterner challenge than Canterbury and said his side needed to switch on defensively to have any chance of overcoming the undefeated Lions.

“Canterbury have been playing the same way as Canterbury and Crusaders teams have for quite a while so we knew what we were going to be up against,” he added.

“Wellington are slightly different in that they move the ball wide a bit like Canterbury but they also like to rumble away with their forwards too so we're going to have to be on our guard in terms of our defence and how we approach that.”

The teams:

Wellington: 15 Charlie Ngatai, 14 Joe Hill, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Tomasi Palu, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Api Naikatini, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Reggie Goodes, 17 Eric Sione, 18 Genesis Mamea, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Adam Hill, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Cory Jane.

Auckland: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Tenina Sauileoge, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Hadleigh Parkes (c), 11 George Moala, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Wayne Ngaluafe, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Kara Pryor, 6 Sean Polwart, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 So'otala Fa'aso'o, 19 Sean Brookman, 20 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 21 Junior Poluleuligaga, 22 Melani Nanai.

Date: Saturday, October 5
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Jonathon White
Assistant referees: Hamish Mexted and Chris Graham