Preview: Wellington v Waikato

Date published: August 15 2014

Wellington coach Chris Boyd has named a strong starting XV for Saturday's ITM Cup opener with Waikato in Wellington.

Wellington coach Chris Boyd has named a strong starting XV for Saturday's ITM Cup opener with Waikato in Wellington.

Boyd has opted to start Fa'atonu Fili at first fly-half, who will combine with Petone scrum-half Jared Kahu. Kahu has been a solid performer throughout the Lions' pre-season matches, as has school leaver and debutant Leni Apisai, who has been given a start at hooker.

Lock Christian Lloyd will also earn his first cap for the Lions on Saturday, while midfielder Wes Goosen will follow suit should he get a crack off the bench.

Loose forward Brad Shields will lead the Lions onto Westpac Stadium for the first time, after playing just 28 matches for the province.

The 23-year-old has been a strong performer and hard worker within the Lions environment since his debut in 2010, and as a result, has been handed the captaincy duties for 2014.

Shields revealed he was honoured and excited to have the opportunity to lead such a proud province, and one he had come through the system of.

“I'm excited for this first match, and I'm excited to work with a fresh bunch of guys who are keen to get stuck in and do the work, and give everything they have for the Lions jersey,” he said.

“Personally, I won't be changing anything in terms of the way I play. I'm just planning to stick to my game, and help the team in any way I can as their captain.”

Meanwhile, Waikato coach Johnny Walters has named his squad for this clash.

Five players in the starting fifteen will make their Waikato debuts with another three potential debutants named on the bench.

Walters said: “We are excited to finally start the 2014 ITM Cup campaign.

“We have been working towards this since the start of the year and the players are chomping at the bit to finally get stuck in.”

There will be no easing into the competition for Waikato as the face fellow Premiership sides Wellington, Canterbury and Taranaki in the space of 12 days.

“It is obviously a pretty tough start for us but we are confident that we have prepared well and are ready for the challenge,” added Walters.

The teams:

Wellington: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Ambrose Curtis, 13 Ope Peleseuma, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Tau Mamea, 10 Fa'atonu Fili, 9 Jared Kahu, 8 Brad Shields (c), 7 Adam Hill, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Christian Lloyd, 4 James Wall, 3 Eric Sione, 2 Leni Apisai, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 James O'Reilly, 17 Tolu Fahamokioa, 18 Taniela Koroi, 19 Henry Stowers, 20 Sheridan Rangihuna, 21 Wes Goosen, 22 James So'oialo

Waikato: 15 Albert Nikoro, 14 Declan O'Donnell, 13 Jordan Payne, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Joe Webber, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (c), 8 Adam Burn, 7 Zak Hohneck, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 David Morgan, 4 Nick Ross, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Loni Uhila.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 James McGougan, 18 Josh Tyrell, 19 Marty Holah, 20 Harrison Levien, 21 Wharenui Hawera, 22 Shayne Anderson.

Date: Saturday, August 16
Kick-off: 18:35 local (07:35 BST, 06:35 GMT)
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Shane McDermott