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'Rusty' Nonu moved to wing

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Thursday, October 16, 2008    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

Nonu admitted to a 'rusty' performance in his first start at second five-eighth against Taranaki last week and Wellington coach Jamie Joseph has instead opted for a Tane Tu'ipulotu-Tamati Ellison combination in midfield with All Black centre Conrad Smith making his return to provincial rugby via the bench.

"We've got such quality centres. We've got two All Blacks centres, we've got Tamati and Tane who are Super 14 players and it's like where do you start?

"I guess he [Nonu] got the short straw in terms of who we were going to start at centre," Joseph said.

The 104kg back however, is likely to go looking for work rather than just hang out wide and wait for the ball to come to him.

"He's a pretty free-spirited player," admitted Joseph. "If he turns up to play on the weekend he'll be in good nick and he'll put the opposition under pressure."

Neemia Tialata is also back to bolster the front row after missing the quarter-final because of sore knees with John Schwalger switching to the tighthead.

Interestingly Joseph has opted for two props on the bench – Tim Fairbrother and Jacob Ellison – an indication of the strength of Southland's set-piece and the fact the Stags are not afraid to play an expansive game either.

"I guess what we're preparing for is a very physical and mobile game and if that's the case props tend to get tired.

"When you're fortunate to have four props available to you it seems sensible to use them all," Joseph said.

Tialata is certainly preparing for a huge forward battle against a Southland pack that dominated its quarter-final against Bay of Plenty.

"It's definitely going to come down to who wins the physical dominance and, of course, playing the full 80 minutes," the All Black prop said.

"The whole focus for the forwards, especially the front rowers, is making it more dynamic.

"It's a big game and we know if we can be dynamic in everything we do right from the start to the end then we can move them around the park and beat them."

The only other change to the starting XV sees Rodney So'oialo, who came off the bench last weekend when Scott Fuglistaller dislocated his shoulder, given the nod at openside flanker with Serge Lilo, making his return from injury, in the reserves.