Preview: Wellington v Canterbury

Date published: September 20 2013

Canterbury head coach Scott Robertson has made five changes to his side that will face Wellington in their ITM Cup clash on Saturday.

Canterbury coach Scott Robertson has made five changes to his XV that will face Wellington in their ITM Cup clash at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

Two players who returned from injury last week to start off the bench have this week made the XV – Corey Flynn at hooker and Johnny McNicholl on the left wing. That sees Ben Funnell and Milford Keresoma providing handy cover from the bench.

Two players have also been released from the All Blacks camp this week to rejoin the team. Matt Todd returns to openside flanker, and Colin Slade replaces Tom Taylor at full-back (with Taylor now having been called up to the All Black squad).

The final change is in the number eight jersey, with Luke Whitelock pulling it on this week and Jordan Taufua ready to make an impact off the bench if required, with coach Robertson saying the game promises to be their biggest challenge of the ITM Cup season yet.

“Like us, Wellington haven't dropped a game yet this season. Both teams will obviously be determined not to break their unbeaten run,” he said.

“We are expecting this game to be at a level of intensity you'd normally get in a final and we're approaching it as such. It is also the beginning of our 'storm' week though, with matches to follow on Wednesday night and the following Saturday, so our focus and energy have to be absolutely primed.”

Wellington meanwhile, who have only missed out on maximum points once in six matches to date, will be without scrum-half Frae Wilson for the home game. Tomasi Palu is their number nine, linking up with Lima Sopoaga behind arguably the strongest back-row in the competition of number eight Victor Vito and flanks Ardie Savea and Brad Shields.

The Lions are six points ahead of Canterbury ahead of what should be an epic clash.

The teams:

Wellington: 15 Charlie Ngatai, 14 Ambrose Curtis, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Joe Hill, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Tomasi Palu, 8 Victor Vito (capt), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Kaipati Gaualofa, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Reg Goodes, 17 Eric Sione, 18 Genesis Mamea, 19 Adam Hill, 20 Kayne Hammington, 21 Tau Mamea, 22 Afa Fa'atau.

Canterbury: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Adam Whitelock, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock (capt), 5 Matt Symons, 4 Luke Katene, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Paea Faanunu, 18 Joel Everson, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Rob Thompson, 22 Milford Keresoma.

Date: Saturday, September 21
Kick-off: 17:35 local (06:35 BST, 05:35 GMT)
Venue: Westpac Stadium
Referee: Nick Briant