Preview: Canterbury v Wellington

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Friday, September 12, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Friday 12 September, 8,05pm at AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Played: 169, 1883–2013
Canterbury wins: 74 | Wellington wins: 85 | Draws: 10

Squad update: Scott Robertson has, as has been his preferred approach all season, continued to rotate his squad with four changes and five positional switches.

Codie Taylor will start at hooker while Joel Everson and Scott Barrett will form the second row for the champions.

The big changes are out wide, with Tom Taylor back in the starting team at first five-eighth resulting in Richie Mo’unga moving back to fullback while Patrick Osborne is back on the flanks. Rob Thompson and Adam Whitelock will start in the centres.

Wellington head coach Chris Boyd continues to makes changes as he seeks a winning combination, and the return of Ross Filipo and Matt Proctor from injury will increase the experience of this young Lions team.

Sheridan Rangihuna and Jackson Garden-Bachop will have the spotlight on them as the Lions field yet another combination at nine and ten.

Form: Canterbury were pushed by Otago last round, a welcome sight for other sides in the competition after the red and black machine had looked unstoppable in the early weeks.

Season form suggests this should be a formality for the home team, but Wellington is a dangerous beast for the champions, having won 85 of the 169 matches between the two sides.

But the Lions will need a major major turnaround if they are to storm AMI Stadium, with the side looking like they might gather their first victory of the year against Auckland before a total capitulation in the second half in round four.

With Manawatu, Northland and Waikato all too good for Wellington this year, the visitors will need to be switched on for Canterbury could threaten a riot.

Last match: Canterbury 29 Wellington 13, 26.10.13 in Wellington (ITMC F)

Last Wellington win: Wellington 25 Canterbury 19, 21.09.13 in Wellington (ITMC)

Biggest Canterbury score: 73 (73–7), 18.08.97 in Christchurch (NPC)

Biggest Wellington score: 48 (48–11), 15.09.90 in Wellington (NPC)

Biggest differential: Canterbury by 66 (73–7), 18.08.97 in Christchurch (NPC)

Key players: For Canterbury the key player is the overall system, with the side looking potent irrespective of who is selected, and if anything this team looks close to Robertson’s full strength selection.

However if there was a critical area for the side it is in the back row. Nasi Manu, Matt Todd and Luke Whitelock have been the best trio in the competition all season.

Wellington need the likes of Jason Woodward, Shaun Treeby, Motu Matu’u and captain Brad Shields to say “enough is enough” and guide this team to a much needed victory.

With Ambrose Curtis and Belgium Tuatagaloa providing firepower on the wings, expect the Lions to throw caution to the wind in Christchurch for this one.