Preview: Hawke's Bay v Wellington

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Friday, August 19, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Hawke's Bay, who are playing in the Mitre 10 Premiership for the first time have not had the most successful warm-up programme losing to Taranaki 3-19 and North Harbour 14-17. Wellington, by comparison, beat Tasman 41-12, Manawatu 33-26 and the Cantabrians 43-14.

Played: 97

Wins: Hawke's Bay 31, Wellington 60, Drawn 6

Last match: Hawke's Bay 26, Wellington 25 (Championship final – 2015)

Hawke's Bay: 1.Ricky Riccitelli, 2.Ash Dixon, 3.Tolu Fajamokioa, 4.Geoff Cridge, 5.Mark Abbott, 6.Hugh Renton, 7.Tony Lamborn, 8.Faaelimiga Selesele, 9.Ellery Wilson, 10.Ihaia West, 11.Mason Emerson, 12.Billy Ropiha, 13.Jonah Lowe, 14.Ryan Tongia, 15.Lewis Marshall.

Substitutes: 16.Jorian Tangaere, 17.Jason Long, 18.Ben May, 19.Josh Eden Whaitiri, 20.Marino Mikaele Tu'u. 21.Brad Weber, 22.Tiaan Falcon, 23.Matt Garland.

Wellington: 1.Vince Sakaria, 2.Leni Apisai, 3.Chris Baumann, 4.Mark Reddish, 5.Sam Lousi, 6.Galu Taufale, 7.Greg Foe, 8.Hoani Matenga, 9.Tomasi Palu, 10.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 11.Wes Goosen, 12.Shaun Treeby, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Joe Hill, 15.Jason Woodward.

Substitutes: 16.Asafo Aumua, 17.Alex Fidow, 18.Joe Apikotoa, 19.Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20.Isaac O'Connor, 21.Sheridan Rangihuna, 22.Pakai Turia, 23.Peter Umaga-Jensen.

Squad Update: Wellington will field four debut players, three of them in the tight five and five more in the substitutes. Captain and openside flanker Greg Foe will play his blazer game for the union. Ash Dixon will captain the Hawke's Bay side from hooker, while Ricci Riccitelli, who filled in so well for Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles in the Super Rugby semi-final against the Sharks will play loosehead prop. Hawke's Bay's debutants are fewer with No.8 Fa'aelimiga Selesele and blindside flanker Hugh Renton the only newcomers in the starting XV and among the reserves Marino Mikaele Tu'u, a No.8, and first five-eighths Tiaan Falcon are newcomers. Brad Weber at halfback and Ben May will also make their first appearances for the Bay, but have plenty of experience with other unions.

Key Players: There's a lot to admire, potentially, in the Hawke's Bay pack and flanker Tony Lamborn after playing such a key role in the blindside role last year has a greater chance on the open side this time around will be a key performer. So will the tight men, lock Mark Abbott, hooker and captain Ash Dixon and prop Ricci Riccitelli. New halfback Brad Weber, back on the ground where he played such a key role in robbing Hawke's Bay of the Ranfurly Shield for Waikato last year, may not be starting on Saturday, but over the season he and first five-eighths Ihaia West may cut come capers that provide a memorable first year up for the Bay.

Wellington are such a favourite to win the Championship but they can't afford to drop a tough game like this one. They will be looking for a big leadership role in an experienced pack from Brad Shields while mid-fielders Shaun Treeby, back after a long injury break, and Matt Proctor will be crucial among the backs.