Old and New in Lions Training Squad
Five members of the world champion New Zealand Under-20s squad feature in a 42-man Wellington Lions Wider Training Group named by new head coach Chris Gibbes today.
Front rowers Alex Fidow and Asafo Aumua, lock Isaia Walker-Leawere, halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara and utility back Thomas Umaga-Jensen are included in a squad that will prepare for Mitre 10 Cup preseason matches against Manawatu and Tasman.
In addition to the recent World Championship winners are 2016 New Zealand Secondary Schools players Billy Proctor, in his first year of club rugby with Marist St Pats, and Carlos Price, who moved south this year after leaving St Kentigern College in Auckland.
However, youthful talent is not the only feature of Gibbes’ squad with 35-year-old former Samoan international lock/loose forward Kane Thompson, former Hurricanes and Wellington utility back Dan Kirkpatrick, and former Waikato lock Chris Middleton all included.
Thompson, capped 33 times for Samoa, made his Wellington Lions debut in 2005, and has provided some steel in the Johnsonville pack this season.
Kane Thompson of Samoa is tackled by Michael Leitch of Japan during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. PHOTO: Getty Images Sport
Kirkpatrick, a 29-year-old first-five or second-five who played 24 matches for Wellington in 2008-09, has rejoined the Petone club after a long stint overseas that included four years with Castres in the French Top 14.
Middleton, a New Zealand Under-19 representative in 2006, has made a successful return to Norths in the past two seasons following stints in the Waikato and Italy.
Gibbes said the Wider Training Squad was a chance to assess a larger group of players before making the final call on his 2017 Mitre 10 Cup squad.
“What we do know is we will need plenty of depth if we want to be successful during the Mitre 10 Cup and that it’s important to have a mix of youth and experience for what will be a tough campaign.
“We’re fortunate to have some very exciting young talent coming through in Wellington, but equally to have a few guys near the back ends of their careers who are still passionate about the game and the Lions and are keen to contribute.”
Gibbes will be selecting Wellington XVs to play Manawatu in Otaki on August 6 and Tasman in Seddon on Augusts 10.
“We still have a number of guys to come back into the mix from Super Rugby, but the door is open and the opportunity is there for players to force their way into the Mitre 10 Cup.”
The Wellington Lions kick off their Mitre 10 Cup Championship campaign against the Manawatu Turbos in Palmerston North on August 20.
The Wellington Lions Wider Training Group is:
Forwards: Alex Fidow (Oriental-Rongotai), Asafo Aumua (Avalon), Ben Power (Hutt Old Boys Marist), Charlie Pahulu (Petone), Chris Mafi (Johnsonville), Chris Middleton (Northern United), Galu Taufale (Poneke), Greg Foe (Poneke), Haamea Ahio (Marist St Pats), Isaia Walker-Leawere (Poneke), Isaac O’Connor (Marist St Pats), James Coburn (Tawa), James Tuia (Marist St Pats), Joe Apikotoa (Hutt Old Boys Marist), Josh Brown (Upper Hutt Rams), Kane Thompson (Johnsonville), Lui Okeamoa-Luamanu (Hutt Old Boys Marist), Meteaki Kafatolu (Petone), Sam Gardner (Wellington), Sitiveni Paongo (Tawa), Taniela Koroi (Tawa), Tolu Fahamokia (Tawa), Valentine Meachen (Marist St Pats), Vince Sakaria (Marist St Pats).
Backs: Andrew Wells (Marist St Pats), Billy Proctor (Marist St Pats), Brandyn Laursen (Hutt Old Boys Marist), Carlos Price (Petone), Dan Kirkpatrick (Petone), Frae Wilson (Wainuiomata), Jeff Makapelu (Johnsonville), Kemara Hauiti-Parapara (Tawa), Lester Maulolo (Petone), Levi Harmon (Poneke), Mike Buckley (Marist St Pats), Ollie Sapsford (Wellington), Paddy Hughes (Wellington), Pakai Turia (Poneke), Paulo Aukuso (Oriental-Rongotai), Sheridan Rangihuna (Hutt Old Boys Marist), Thomas Umaga-Jensen (Wainuiomata), Trent Renata (Oriental-Rongotai).