Wellington Lions head coach Chris Gibbes has named a settled team for Friday’s Mitre 10 Cup Championship semi-final against Northland at Westpac Stadium.
Gibbes has made just three changes to the team that beat Northland 36-18 only a week ago at the same venue in what was the final match of the regular season.
Samoan test loose forward Galu Taufale returns to the squad in place of All Black Vaea Fifita, who has returned to his national duties, Sheridan Rangihuna wins the hotly contested No.9 jersey, while Asafo Aumua reclaims his starting role at hooker.
Taufale, who sat out the final match of the regular season with a minor injury, will start at No.8 allowing captain Brad Shields to shift over to blindside.
Rangihuna takes over at halfback from Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, who moves to the reserves. The duo have shared the starting duties all season with Hauiti-Parapara starting six matches and Rangihuna to make his fifth start in the semi-final.
Aumua switches places with Sitiveni Paongo who moves to a reserves bench that includes the return of openside Du’Plessis Kirifi in an impact role.
Recent matches between Wellington and Northland have been closely contested with last weekend’s result following on from a 29-21 Lions win in Whangarei in 2016.
Wellington finished the 2017 round robin in first place with a record of nine wins and one loss, while Northland finished fourth with five wins and five losses.
Wellington and Northland have not previously met in a semi-final match.
The Lions reached the Mitre 10 Cup Championship semi-finals last season where they lost 40-37 to North Harbour at Westpac Stadium. Northland’s last semi-final appearance was in 2014 when they lost to Hawke’s Bay.
The Wellington Lions team to play Northland at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday, October 20 is:
15 Trent Renata (Oriental-Rongotai)
14 Julian Savea (Oriental-Rongotai)
13 Wes Goosen (Old Boys University)
12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen (Wainuiomata)
11 Ben Lam (Tawa)
10 Jackson Garden-Bachop (Northern United)
9 Sheridan Rangihuna (Hutt Old Boys Marist)
8 Galu Taufale (Poneke)
7 Mateaki Kafatolu (Petone)
6 Brad Shields (Petone) (c)
5 James Blackwell (Petone)
4 Sam Lousi (Marist St Pats)
3 Alex Fidow (Oriental-Rongotai)
2 Asafo Aumua (Avalon)
1 Tolu Fahamokioa (Tawa)
Reserves: Sitiveni Paongo (Tawa), Vince Sakaria (Marist St Pats), Joe Apikotoa (Hutt Old Boys Marist), Will Mangos (Old Boys University), Du’Plessis Kirifi (Loan), Kemara Hauiti-Parapara (Tawa), Regan Verney (Old Boys University), Malo Tuitama (Oriental-Rongotai)