Ricoh Wellington Lions coach Chris Boyd is sticking to a similar line-up this week as his team look to secure the Ranfurly Shield for the first time since 2009.
Jason Woodward has been cleared to play after initially being in doubt following Saturday’s match in Pukekohe, however, a slight backline shuffle sees Matt Proctor drop to fullback, with Ope Peleseuma and newcomer Marvin Karawana pairing in the midfield.
Vaea Fifita comes also comes into the starting line-up for the injured Mark Reddish.
The Lions last won the Ranfurly Shield in 2008, after beating Auckland 27-0 at Eden Park.
They kept the Shield secure through four challenges in 2009, before falling 36-14 to Canterbury.
The team to face Hawke’s Bay at McLean Park tonight, kick-off 7.35pm is;
1. Tolu Fahamokioa (Tawa)
2. Motu Matu’u (Oriental Rongotai)
3. Eric Sione (Northern United)
4. Vaea Fifita (Wellington)
5. Ross Filipo (Petone)
6. Brad Shields (c) (Petone)
7. Adam Hill (Old Boys’ University)
8. Victor Vito (Marist St Pats)
9. Sheridan Rangihuna (Hutt Old Boys Marist)
10. Willie Ripia
11. Ambrose Curtis (Oriental Rongotai)
12. Ope Peleseuma (Hutt Old Boys Marist)
13. Marvin Karawana (Wainuiomata)
14. Jason Woodward (Upper Hutt)
15. Matt Proctor (Oriental Rongotai)
16. James O’Reilly (Hutt Old Boys Marist)
17. Taniela Koroi (Tawa)
18. James Wall (Hutt Old Boys’ Marist)
19. Pau Halafihi (Oriental Rongotai)
20. Frae Wilson (Wainuiomata)
21. Jackson Garden-Bachop (Northern United)
22. Tu Umaga-Marshall (Tawa)
Preview: Hawke’s Bay v Wellington
Played: 94, 1885-2013
Hawke’s Bay wins: 29 | Wellington wins: 60 | Draws: 5
Lions coach Chris Boyd has kept the faith, despite his team being on the receiving end of a 55-7 thumping by Counties.
Matt Proctor shifts to fullback, while there is a new midfield featuring Ope Peleseuma and Marvin Karawana, while cleared to play Jason Woodward will line up on the right wing.
Vaea Fifita is the only alteration to Wellington’s pack, replacing the injured Mark Reddish, while Ross Filipo and Victor Vito remaining in the visitor’s starting team.
Recent pedigree however suggests that the Magpies, who have the best defence in the entire competition, will be too much for the winless visitors.
Already in what is unwanted record territory, Wellington’s worse ever domestic season could be invigorated with a Shield parade down Lambton Quay in the coming days.
Without a triumph in seven matches, another failure for the 2013 runners-up will mathematically confirm their relegation to the second tier Championship.
Biggest Wellington score: 67 (67-36), 18.05.95 in Napier
Biggest Hawke’s Bay score: 58 (58-8), 14.08.26 in Napier
Biggest differential: Hawke’s Bay by 50 (58-8), 14.08.26 in Napier
Few Lions will be happy with their efforts so far, but a young team with plenty of rising talent could engineer a dramatic reversal if they win the Shield for the first time since 2008 – although Taranaki and North Harbour will then receive challenges in the capital as the regular season comes to an end.
Willie Ripia has been adding a bit of control but no Wellington player has stood up and taken control of a contest this season, if that changes in front of a packed McLean Park, Lions fans will have a pleasant alternative conversation topic.