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PREVIEW: Wellington v Southland

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Wellington v Southland, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Friday, August 31, 7.35pm.

Played: 97
Won: Wellington 66, Southland 24, Draws 7
Last time: Wellington 61-12 Southland, Invercargill, October 7, 2017
Referee: Shuhei Kubo

FORM

Wellington lost their last game, to Premiership champions Canterbury 20-27 in Christchurch. Earlier they had beaten Otago 34-16 in their first game back in the Premiership after their promotion from the Championship last season. Southland lost their first game, at home, to Hawke's Bay 10-31 and then travelled to Blenheim and lost to Tasman 24-45.

WELLINGTON STRENGTHENED

Wellington go into this crossover game with plenty of advantages, without taking into account the fact they are at home. But in their last eight games at home they have won games by an average of 20 points. They have managed to beat more defenders, 35 per game, this season than any other side. Southland have beaten 12 defenders, one more than lowest side Northland. Wes Goosen heads the competition for most metres gained with 249 which is more than twice as many as the Stags' best Tauasosi Tuimavave with 119, but Tuimavave isn't starting in Wellington. The return of All Blacks who need game time has done Southland no favours either. TJ Perenara is at halfback, Ardie Savea will be on the flank with Vaea Fifita on the blindside while Asafo Aumua will start at hooker. Prop Jeff To'omaga-Allen has a knee injury and won't play.

CHANGES MADE

Reuben Northover replaces Morgan Mitchell at tighthead prop while Ray Tatafu has been named at lock for Ben Fotheringham and Jackson Ormond has switched on the left wing with Lewis Ormond. Tauasosi Tuimavave is out with Broc Hooper to start at fullback. Southland headed home from Blenheim ahead of their return to Wellington and have been working on their game systems. They were caught out either side of halftime by the Makos when conceding three tries and had been addressing that. While the final score blew out, there were times when the Southland defence worked well to deny Tasman more opportunities. They will be looking for an even more improved showing against Wellington, who are renowned attackers, at Westpac Stadium.

THE SCOOP

Winning on the road has long been an issue for Southland and have lost their last 15 games away from home, the longest drought among all sides.

TEAMS:

Wellington: 1.Tolu Fahamokioa, 2.Asafo Aumua, 3.Joel Hintz, 4.James Blackwell, 5.Will Mangos, 6.Vaea Fifita, 7.Ardie Savea, 8.Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 9.TJ Perenara, 10.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 11.Malo Tuitama, 12.Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Ben Lam, 15.Wes Goosen.

Substitutes: 16.James O'Reilly, 17.Xavier Numia, 18.Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, 19.Galu Taufale, 20.Greg Foe, 21.Carlos Price, 22.TJ Va'a, 23.Billy Proctor.

Southland: 1.Shaun Stodard, 2.Flynn Thomas, 3.Reuben Northover, 4.Raymond Tatafu, 5.Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 6.Wade McRae, 7.Phil Halder, 8.Tony Lamborn, 9.Jay Renton, 10.James Wilson, 11.Jackson Ormond, 12.Matthew Johnson, 13.Aleki Morris-Lome, 14.Isaac Te Tamaki, 15.Broc Hooper.

Substitutes: 16.Andrew Ready, 17.Joseph Walsh, 18.Christopher Apoua, 19.Ben Fotheringham, 20.Bill Fukofuka, 21.Nicolas Costa, 22.Raymond Nu'u, 23.Lewis Ormond.