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PREVIEW: Waikato v Wellington

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Thursday, September 21, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Waikato v Wellington, Saturday 23 September, 5.05pm at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton. TICKETS. 
Played: 70 (1923-2016)
Wins: Waikato 32, Wellington 37, Draws 1
Last match: Waikato 28, Wellington 24 (2016)

FORM
Wellington couldn’t be in any hotter form after thumping Canterbury 60-14 in round five. Canterbury had looked unbeatable in 2017 but had no answer to a relentless onslaught from the Wellington Lions which has instilled them as favourites for the Championship crown. Waikato were humbled by Manawatu last week but still remain in the hunt for a Premiership playoff spot – although they cannot afford any more slip-ups. 

QUICK TAP: STAGS STEAMROLLED IN ROTORUA

CH, CH, CHANGES
With an 11 point lead at the top of the Championship table, Wellington have made six changes to their line up for this clash. The biggest shuffle comes in the inside backs where Dan Kirkpatrick comes in at first five and Sheridan Rangihuna at halfback. In the forwards, impressive young lock Isaia Walker-Leaware has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury and is replaced by Will Mangos.

FRONT ROW FORCE

While both packs are accomplished at set piece time, it is with ball in hand where they could be most influential. Wellington front rowers Asafo Aumua and Alex Fidow have captured headlines this season with their destructive ball running. In hooker Hame Faiva and prop Atu Moli, Waikato have a couple of hard running front rowers of their own. But the impact doesn’t stop there. Loni ‘The Tongan Bear’ Uhila is set to come from the bench and provide go-forward as the match wears on.
STATCHAT
After playing six games, Wellington are averaging 5.8 tries per match compared to Waikato’s 3.5 tries per match.

TEAMS
Waikato:
Ayden Johnstone, Hame Faiva, Atu Moli, Leva Fifita, James Tucker (C), Luke Jacobsen, Mitch Jacobsen, Jordan Manihera, Pele Cowley, Sam Christie, Sevu Reece, Tevita Taufui, Bailyn Sullivan, Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara, Tyler Campbell
Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Loni Uhila, Sefo Kautai, Sam Caird, Adam Burn, Harrison Levien, Matty Landsdown, Pita Ahki

Wellington: S. Paongo, Asafo Aumua, Alex Fidow, Sam Lousi, Will Mangos, M. Kafatolu, Dan Kirifi, T. Ben-Nicholas, Sheridan Rangihuna, Dan Kirkpatrick, Malo Tuitama, Regan Verney, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Julian Savea (C), Ben Lam
Reserves: Leni Apisai, Toa Fahamolioa, Joe Apikotoa, Chris Middleton, Galu Taufele, K. Hauiti-Parapara, Jackson Garden-Bachop, B. Proctor