Premiership preview: Canterbury v Wellington
Friday, August 24, 2018 Campbell Burnes Getty Images
Referee: James Doleman (Auckland)
Played: 172 (1883-2017)
Wins: Wellington 87, Canterbury 75, Drawn 10
Last match: Wellington 60 Canterbury 14 (September 17, 2017, crossover)
Canterbury is coming off a decisive opening loss, 25-17 to the Mako in Blenheim, in which the final score flattered them.
The forwards will have done some soul-searching, while coach Joe Maddock will want more spark on attack. Reed Prinsep comes into the No 6 jersey to try and keep Vaea Fifita quiet.
The Lions accounted for Otago 34-16 in round one, playing well in patches, but gaining a key win in their return to the Premiership.
Their astonishing 60-14 victory over Canterbury in the capital last year bears little to no relevance to this fixture for Wellington, but the defending premiers will not have forgotten that day.
?? A 17 point blitz in the opening 10 minutes proved the difference for @WgtnRugby vs @OtagoRugbyTeam in Wellington today.
REPORT + HIGHLIGHTS: https://t.co/rKBjRTIGlu pic.twitter.com/Dm4l8bGh5j— Mitre 10 Cup (@Mitre10Cup) August 19, 2018
George Bridge is back for Canterbury, and Ben Lam is back for Wellington.
Both men, who shared 31 tries during Super Rugby, return after an extra week’s break, so should be ready to fire. It has meant that Josh McKay shifts from fullback to wing for the Cantabs, while Braydon Ennor has a chance to show his wares at centre, where he was a schoolboy star.
Wellington has also reshuffled, Lam taking his slot on the right wing, while captain Matt Proctor, at centre, will play his first game since May after a sternum injury. Thomas Umaga-Jensen replaces his brother in midfield and will be keen to cut some capers against Ennor et al.
QUICK TAP: CONTEXT TO BE CONSIDERED IN FOUL PLAY RULINGS
Canterbury, like the Crusaders, is hellishly hard to lower on its home turf. That has happened just once in the last 17 games and that was the famous, high-scoring defeat to Taranaki in a Ranfurly Shield defence last season.
You would think that Wellington will find it tough to make 17 clean line breaks this time round after the 2017 encounter. The onus will go on the Lions pack, bolstered by Jeff Toomaga-Allen, to muscle up against a Canterbury pack stung by the manner in which the Mako opened it up.
Watch for the proverbial Canterbury response in the face of a fired-up Wellington in a rivalry that has historically thrown up some epic clashes.
Canterbury: George Bridge, Josh McKay, Braydon Ennor, Sam Beard, Caleb Makene, Brett Cameron, Mitch Drummond (c), Whetu Douglas (c), Tom Christie, Reed Prinsep, Mitch Dunshea, Luke Romano, Sef Fa’agase, Nathan Vella, Alex Hodgman
Reserves: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Chris King, Hamish Dalzell, Tom Sanders, Connor Collins, James Hawkey, Ngane Punivai
Wellington: Trent Renata, Ben Lam, Matt Proctor (c), Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Wes Goosen, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Sheridan Rangihuna, Thomas Waldrom, Du Plessis Kirifi, Vaea Fifita, Isaia Walker-Leawere, James Blackwell, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, James O’Reilly, Tolu Fahamokoia
Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, Joel Hintz, Will Mangos, Mateaki Kafatolu, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Billy Proctor, Malo Tuitama
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