Preview: Auckland v Wellington

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Saturday, September 6, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Saturday 6 September, 2.35pm at Eden Park, Auckland
Played: 173, 1863-2013
Wellington wins: 76 | Auckland wins: 94 | Draws: 3

Squad update: Auckland has made four changes to their starting line-up, notably replacing the three All Blacks that were made available to them last week.

With Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua and Charles Piutau missing and Ben Lam dropping to the bench, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Joe Edwards, Gareth Anscombe and Lolagi Visinia come into the starting team.

Big Liaki Moli is back from injury but Marist lock William Lloyd retains his position so the experienced forward will come off the bench.

Former All Blacks Sevens star Belgium Tuatagaloa starts at left wing, earning his first Wellington start, forming a potent combination out wide with Ambrose Curtis.

Tu Umaga-Marshall and Frae Wilson start at centre and halfback in the other changes to the Lions, with coach Chris Boyd opting to give the pack another chance.

Form: Auckland are something of a mixed bag at this time, with a 1-1-1 record. Canterbury touched them up, then the blue and whites took out their frustration against Manawatu.

The 16-16 draw against Tasman wasn’t as shocking a result as some frustrated Auckland supporters might suggest, as the Makos are a different beast this season.

Wellington need this win, and while they might have won the meeting last year in the capital, their 76th victory in the rivalry, Auckland still have the upper hand, tracing back to their incredible 58-0 win over 26 years ago.

The Lions remain without a win in the 2014 regular sesaon campaign.

Last match: Wellington 38 Auckland 16, 05.10.13 in Wellington (ITMC)

Last Auckland win: Auckland 33 Wellington 22, 20.10.12 in Wellington (ITMC SF)

Biggest Auckland score: 58 (58-0), 24.04.88 in Auckland (NPC)

Biggest Wellington score: 48 (48-23), 13.10.00 in Auckland (NPC SF)

Biggest differential: Auckland by 58 (58-0), 24.04.88 in Auckland (NPC)

Key players: Anscombe’s shift to fullback gives Auckland a little more security when it comes to defusing some varieties of Wellington’s attack, but it is his vacated spot that interests.

New Zealand Under 20s captain Simon Hickey starts at first five-eighth, alongside a backline that remains stacked with talent – Francis Saili, George Moala and Suburbs wing Visinia are still to constantly menace in 2014.

Wellington need their pack to start providing the basic go forward, and a youthful Lions outfit will want Motu Matu’u and Mark Reddish, the Rongotai connection, to provide some punch alongside captain Brad Shields.

Umaga-Marshall’s inclusion means that Tawa is well represented as he joins Shaun Treeby in the midfield. Again however the spotlight falls on youngster Chase Tiatia from Hutt Old Boys Marist, who guides Wellington’s backline from ten.