Preview: Wellington v Hawke's Bay

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The perennial promotion bridesmaids in the Championship, Hawke's Bay, are looking to go one better this year, while also retaining the Shield.

Form: Wellington had been doing very well until the midway point of the round when suffering successive losses, 17-36 to Tasman and 36-37 to Otago. They got back on the winning side against Waikato at the weekend, and while the 21-14 margin looks sound enough it wasn't as effective as Wellington might have wanted.

Hawke's Bay have had a tough year and their last outing, defending the Ranfurly Shield against Auckland was probably as tough as it gets. But their only loss in recent weeks has been in Christchurch to Canterbury 14-29 so they are travelling well. Zac Guildford returns to the side this week and that should help compensate for the loss of Israel Dagg. This game could have a big bearing on the season as the winner should be the best chance to secure a home advantage in the play-offs should they meet again.

Played 96

Won: Wellington 60, Hawke's Bay 31, Drawn 5

Last game: Wellington 14 Hawke's Bay 36 at McLean Park, 2014


Wellington: 1.Reggie Goodes, 2.Leni Apisai, 3.Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, 4.Jeremy Thrush, 5.Hoani Matenga, 6.Vaea Fifita, 7.Adam Hill, 8.Ardie Savea (captain), 9.Frae Wilson, 10.Jonny Bentley, 11. Jason Woodward, 12.Wes Goosen, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Joe Hill, 15.Cory Jane.

Reserves: 16.James O'Reilly, 17.Vince Sakaraia, 18.Ben May, 19.James Blackwell, 20.Greg Foe, 21.Tomasi Palu, 22.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23.Tomasi Alosio.

Hawke's Bay: 1.Tolu Fahamokioa, 2.Ash Dixon, 3.Brendan Edmonds, 4.Mark Abbott, 5.Mark Allardice, 6.Tony Lamborn, 7.Brendon O'Connor, 8.Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 9.Chris Eaton, 10.Ihaia West, 11.Shannon Chase, 12.Billy Ropiha, 13.Lewis Marshall, 14.Robbie Fruean, 15.Zac Guildford.

Reserves: 16. Jorian Tangaere, 17.Mark Braidwood, 18.Jarvy Aoake, 19.Junior Waqa, 20.Tom Stanley, 21.Ellery Wilson, 22.Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald, 23.Jonah Lowe.

Squad news: Two players will mark their first starts of the season for Wellington. Adam Hill will start on the openside and Wes Goosen will make his first start at second five-eighths. Cory Jane has recovered from a shoulder injury and will be at fullback while Jason Woodward will return to the left wing. Props Ben May and Vince Sakaria mark their return from injury by taking a place on the bench.

Hawke's Bay will be without fullback Israel Dagg whose dislocated shoulder suffered in the Ranfurly Shield challenge against Auckland has ended his season. His place will be taken by Zac Guildford now his four-game suspension has been completed. Richard Buckman is recovering from an ankle injury with Lewis Marshall called in to make his first start for the season. Also starting for the first time is second five-eighths Billy Ropiha who gets his chance in the absence of Andrew Horrell with a hip strain. Robbie Fruean will start on the wing. In the forwards Trent Boswell-Wakefield will play No.8 allowing Brendon O'Connor to play openside flanker.

Key players: As always the contest in the loose is going to be crucial with home side fielding potential gamebusters in No.8 Ardie Savea and flanker Vaea Fifita with Hawke's Bay offering Brendon O'Connor and Tony Lamborn who have been at the heart of Hawke's Bay's Ranfurly Shield retention. The battle in the tight will also be of interest as Mark Abbott and Michael Allardice have been two strong battlers for the Bay while Wellington have the mix of experience in Jeremy Thrush and the less experienced Hoani Matenga.

Hawke's Bay lose Horrell and Buckman as a combination in midfield and that will be an area Wellington look to exploit with Ropiha and Marshall each making their first starts of the year.