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ITM Cup Preview: Wellington v Tasman

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Sportal.co.nz     31 Jul 2010     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Sunday August 1, 16.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 4 – Wellington 4, Tasman 0.

LAST TIME: October 23, 2009 (Blenheim) – Tasman 14-22 Wellington.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: September 27, 2008 – Wellington 26-20 Tasman.

MATCH ODDS: TAB (Tuesday): Wellington $1.06, Tasman $8.00.

WALKING WOUNDED: Rodney So'oialo, who was named as skipper for the year, has been battling to get fit for this match and was eventually omitted. His absence apart, there is a solid look to the pack and plenty of speed out wide. Tasman named Joe Wheeler to start despite a nagging shoulder problem that will be assessed as close to game time as possible. If he doesn't make it, Glen Gregory will be promoted from the bench and Anthony Elisala would come into the 22. Sione Holani and Ben Coman were not considered for selection.

FORM: Wellington suffered an unexpected pre-season defeat to Manawatu but made amends by beating Canterbury in the team's final hit-out. Tasman lost twice, to Canterbury and Otago, by about a dozen points each time.

WHO'S HOT: Neemia Tialata has been named as captain in So'oialo's absence and, if he wants to stay in the All Black frame, needs a big domestic season. There will be real interest in the performance of Wellington's back division and especially the two wingers; Hosea Gear is deadly at this level and can be expected to feature among the season's top try-scorers while Julian Savea has already made a big name in age-group and sevens matches. Tasman's forward strength lies in its loose trio, so the acid will be on the most experienced tighties, skipper Chris Jack and former Southlander Fai Mika, to give them a stable platform to work from. Steve Alfeld, a relatively new halfback but with one Super 14 match under his belt, might have to be lively if his backline is going to get much room to work in.

WE THINK: Wellington should be far too good in this match and we think the Lions will get their season under way with a five-pointer. Tasman has always been a gritty opponent in these matches but the Makos have simply lost too many experienced, talented players for us to like them.

TEAMS:

Wellington: 1. John Schwalger, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Neemia Tialata (captain), 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Daniel Ramsay, 6. Mark Reddish, 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 8. Faifili Levave, 9. Ruki Tipuna, 10. Fa'atonu Fili, 11. Hosea Gear, 12. Sean Treeby, 13. Alipate Leiua, 14. Julian Savea, 15. Apoua Stewart.

Reserves: 16. Ged Robinson, 17. Reg Goodes, 18. Api Naikatini, 19. TJ Ionae, 20. Jared Kahu, 21. Hayden Cripps, 22. Charlie Ngatai.

Tasman: 1. Sam Prattley, 2. Francis Smith, 3. Fai Mika, 4. Jarrod Aberhart, 5. Chris Jack (captain), 6. Joe Wheeler, 7. Jonathan Poff, 8. Poutasi Luafutu, 9. Steve Alfeld, 10. James Marshall, 11. Afeleki Pelenise, 12. Tom Marshall, 13. Kade Poki, 14. Blair Cook, 15. Robbie Malneek.

Reserves: 16. Vernon Fredericks, 17. Hamish Cochrane, 18. Glen Gregory, 19. Shane Christie, 20. Kaide Whiting, 21. Daniel Hawkins, 22. James Kamana.

REFEREE: Josh Noonan