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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

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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Brodie Retallick identifies where the Wallabies could be most dangerous.

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Brodie Retallick identifies where the Wallabies could be most dangerous.

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.

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

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

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Wonton 2 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

18 Go to comments
N
Nick 3 hours ago
How 'gazelle' Nick Frost thawed the hearts of Wallaby fans at Suncorp

Its almost like you read my comment on the other site on sunday morning Nick - you flagged all the same examples! 😝 Frost was motm for mine. That eg in the 56th minute in particular impressed me, nothing but sheer effort and a dupont/smith-like tracking line behind the D. Surely an effort like that from frost marries perfectly with that quote from schmidt at the start of the year about effort and work rate being 70-80% and talent is just the icing on top… What it also showed though was the players not making that effort, in that example he goes past both valetini and ikitau, and in the eg that finished with valetini scoring hunter paisami barely breaks a canter to support the break. And then there was the chase from wright and lancaster for the 2nd georgian try! One blemish - at kickoff I saw frost miss or get bumped off a few tackles and I felt like I saw what has been holding his selection back. I think because he is so big and is trying to get low to tackle, he seems to dip his head and ends up losing his balance or ability to adjust and ends up missing or making a soft hit. I think in the first 2 minutes he misses or makes 2-3 soft tackles, but you could clearly see the work rate and desire! He (the pod) also missed a kick restart or two? Also very happy to see harry wilson back in the fold. What impressed me from him wasn’t all the usual stuff he is known for, but all the other bits that usually let him down. He looked surprisingly good in the air at lineout time, physical at the breakdown, and good in the maul peeling off 3 georgians for one of the maul tries. Id have frost, skelton, wright as my 4-6 with LSL and wilson on the bench. i’m once again unconvinced by tom wirght - he was very good game 1, but game 2-3 he was back to more rocks than diamonds. There is no real other player to usurp him really so he stays in the team for now but I think Joe should put kellaway wherever he serves the team best and wright can be moved around him. Did donno do enough to overtake noah? My gut says no. They clearly had a plan to attack more so he looked better in that regard because he just had more opportunity, but they looked better off tate (who had a v good game also) then they did off donno.

14 Go to comments
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