PREVIEW: Counties Manukau v Wellington

Getty Images

Thursday, September 8, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Counties Manukau suffered a 17-20 loss to North Harbour in their first game of the season but have since beaten Bay of Plenty 39-34 and Hawke's Bay 48-20. Wellington beat Hawke's Bay 36-36 in their opening game but then lost to Otago 21-44 in Dunedin. They came back from that to beat North Harbour 21-17 in their last outing.

Played: 31

Wins: Counties Manukau 13, Wellington 16, Drawn 2

Last match: Counties Manukau 55 Wellington 7, Pukekohe 2014


Counties Manukau: 1.Sean Bagshaw, 2.Suliasi Taufalele, 3.Kalolo Tuiloma, 4.Matiaha Martin, 5.Viliame Rarasea, 6.Jimmy Tupou, 7.Jordan Taufua, 8.Sootala Fa'aso'o, 9.Augustine Pulu, 10.Piers Francis, 11.Sherwin Stowers, 12.Cardiff Vaega, 13.Sam Vaka, 14.Sione Molia, 15.Luteru Laulala.

Substitutes: 16.Gafatasi Su'a, 17.Sione Faletau, 18.Jarred Adams, 19.Matt Va'ai, 20.Viliami Taulani, 21.Richard Judd, 22.Joe Reynolds, 23.Sione Fifita.

Wellington: 1.Vince Sakaria, 2.Leni Apisai, 3.Chris Baumann, 4.Isaia Walker-Leawere, 5.Sam Lousi, 6.Vaea Fifita, 7.Brad Shields, 8.Hoani Matenga, 9.Tomasi Palu, 10.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 11.Wes Goosen, 12.Shaun Treeby, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Joe Hill, 15.Peter Umaga-Jensen.

Substitutes: 16.Asafo Aumua, 17.Reg Goodes, 18.Joe Apikotoa, 19.Mark Reddish, 20.Greg Foe, 21.Sheridan Rangihuna, 22.TJ Va'a, 23.Mike Lealavaa.

Squad Update: Only one change has been made to the Counties Manukau side which beat Hawke's Bay. At hooker Suliasi Taufalele replaces Gafatasi Su'a. Matt Va'ai is set to make his debut in the Counties Manukau loose forwards. While there is only one change to Wellington's team there are some key positional changes. Most notably Brad Shields is going to be placed on the openside flank of the scrum. Sam Lousi is back at lock while Hoani Matenga has moved to No.8. Returning from injury are prop Reggie Goodes and lock Mark Reddish. Both have been named in the reserves. There's no place in the side for prop Alex Fidow and loosie Galu Taufale.

Key Players: In what is certain to be a titanic battle in the loose Jordan Taufua, Jimmy Tupou and Sootala Fa'aso'o will face Wellington's Brad Shields, Vaea Fifita and Hoani Matenga. It is likely that whichever combination works best is likely to end up on the winning side. Counties also have the experienced inside-back combination of halfback Augustine Pulu and first five-eighths Piers Francis. If they get good ball they are well capable of moving Wellington around the park. Wellington may have less experience in that regard but Tomasi Palu and Jackson Garden-Bachop are developing a useful partnership with two seriously good contributors outside them, Shaun Treeby and Matt Proctor. Everything points to an absorbing contest to claim the Lomu Trophy for the first time.