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Hurricanes wunderkind Ruben Love will finally link up with TJ Perenara

By Tom Raine
Ruben Love of the Wellington makes a break during the Wellington Lions v North Harbour, Mitre 10 Cup rugby union match at SKY Stadium, Wellington on Saturday 17th October 2020. Copyright photo: Masanori Udagawa / www.photosp ort.nz

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Wellington Lions coach Leo Crowley has named five debutants in his 23-man squad for this Saturday’s opening round clash with Northland.

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The team will contain two current All Blacks, with Asafo Aumua released from international duty to start at hooker and TJ Perenara granted a return to Wellington having missed the 2021 Super Rugby season whilst playing in Japan.

Aumua is set to line up alongside Xavier Numia and Alex Fidow, forming the same front row combination that started in the defeat to Tasman back in the 2019 Mitre 10 Cup Premiership final.

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In the engine room, Hurricanes regular James Blackwell starts alongside ex-Racing 92 and All Black, Dominic Bird.

Meanwhile, Du’Plessis Kirifi will lead the side from openside-flanker, combining with Taine Plumtree and debutant Keelan Whitman, who will start at No 8.

In the backline, starting halfback Perenara will certainly be excited by the opportunity to link up with the mercurial prospect that is the 20-year-old Ruben Love, who is set to start at No 10. Perenara of course is no stranger to star quality outside him at first-five, he and Beauden Barrett forming one of the most dangerous nine-ten pairings in recent Super Rugby history.

Love, who was recently named in the New Zealand U20s side for 2021, made a total of seven appearances for the Hurricanes this year and showcased glimpses of his exciting running and counter-attacking ability. Featuring alongside the 69-test cap Perenara, is certainly not a bad prospect for the youngster’s continuing development.

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In the centres, Peter Umaga-Jensen pairs up with Vince Aso, with Aso heading to Japan at the end of the season. Ex All Black Julian Savea starts on the wing, with Wes Goosen and Pepesana Patafilo joining him in the back three.

On the bench, halfback Richard Judd, first-five Brandyn Laursen and prop PJ Sheck will all be in line to make their respective debut appearances for the province.

The team features 12 players who have experienced Super Rugby in 2021 and Crowley will hope that the side can get off to a good start in this year’s Bunnings NPC.

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The Wellington Lions matchday 23:

  1. Xavier Numia (Oriental Rongotai)
  2. Asafo Aumua (Avalon)
  3. Alex Fidow (Ories)
  4. James Blackwell (Petone)
  5. Dominic Bird* (Upper Hutt Rams)
  6. Taine Plumtree (Old Boys University)
  7. Du’Plessis Kirifi © (Northern United)
  8. Keelan Whitman* (Marist St Pats)
  9. TJ Perenara (Northern United)
  10. Ruben Love (Wainuiomata)
  11. Pepesana Patafilo (Tawa)
  12. Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wainuiomata)
  13. Vince Aso (Petone)
  14. Julian Savea (Oriental Rongotai)
  15. Wes Goosen (Old Boys University)
  16. Bruce Kauika-Petersen (Northern United)
  17. Vince Sakaria (Marist St Pats)
  18. PJ Sheck* (Tawa)
  19. Caleb Delaney (Old Boys University)
  20. Sam Smith (Wainuiomata)
  21. Richard Judd* (Paremata-Plimmerton)
  22. Brandyn Laursen* (Hutt Old Boys Marist)
  23. Tomasi Alosio (Hutt Old Boys Marist)

(*) denotes debutant

Wellington play Northland at Sky Stadium, Wellington on Saturday 7th August, kick-off at 2:05pm.

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Hurricanes wunderkind Ruben Love will finally link up with TJ Perenara

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