Planet Rugby

Preview: Wellington v Canterbury

25th October 2013 08:09

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Willi Heinz of Canterbury and Ardie Savea of Wellington compete

It's on: ITM Cup Final

Canterbury will want to make it six straight domestic titles when they collide with Wellington at Westpac Stadium in Saturday's ITM Cup Final.

The hosting Lions will fancy their chances after having already beaten Canterbury on home soil this season, a 25-19 victory back in September.

However, a red and black team at the business end of the competition is very different to that of a regular-season one, as recent form suggests.

Canterbury are hitting all the right notes of late and their squad depth continues to impress, with the return of Tom Taylor coming as a boost.

However, they remain without the injured Matt Todd and Corey Flynn along with, of course, that list of All Blacks which is as long as it gets.

Should the visitors prevail it would arguably be their greatest achievement to date and few would bet against this side lifting the Cup. As said, they lift their game when it matters.

Canterbury have looked in excellent form over recent weeks and one unsung player has been Ryan Crotty, who should be rewarded in November with Test run-outs. Meanwhile, Nasi Manu looks back to his best while Joe Moody will want to celebrate his Test call-up.

Wellington meanwhile will be desperate to prove they are not the perennial chokers after having lost four finals back-to-back from 2006-2009, their last appearance in the showpiece.

Their line-up is one that has impressed throughout the ITM Cup campaign, notably in the back-row where two players left out of the All Black touring squad, Victor Vito and Brad Shields, will start alongside the next big thing in New Zealand rugby, Ardie Savea.

One change to the Wellington side sees Charlie Ngatai wear the full-back jersey as Matt Proctor move to the wing, with consistency in selection having been key this year.

So will it be a first title for the Lions or will the Canterbury juggernaut keep on rolling?

Prediction: The Lions' long wait is set to end as their attacking arsenal, notably that back-row, will see them win by five or so points. Expect a classic ITM Cup Final in Wellington.

The teams:

Wellington: 15 Charlie Ngatai, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Frae Wilson, 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 Kaipati Gaualofa, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Adam Hill, 21 Tomasi Palu, 22 Joe Hill.

Canterbury: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Adam Whitelock, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Luke Whitelock, 6 George Whitelock (c), 5 Luke Katene, 4 Joel Everson, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Marcel Cummings-Toone, 17 Paea Fa'anunu, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Rob Thompson, 22 Colin Slade.

Date: Saturday, October 26
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 BST, 06:35 GMT)
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant referees: Nick Briant, tba
Television match official: Chris Watt

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