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PREVIEW: Northland v Wellington

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Northland v Wellington, 7.35pm Thursday 22 September, Toll Stadium, Whangarei
Played: 33 (1939-2015)
Wins: Wellington 23, Northland 8, Draws 2
Last match: Wellington 29, Northland 0 (2015)

FORM
Although Wellington have only dropped one game all season, their form has been less convincing than their place on the ladder suggests. It took a last gasp penalty to beat Counties Manukau while the boot of Jackson Garden Bachop also got the Lions home over North Harbour with a Wellington record of seven penalties. Northland sit at the foot of the Championship ladder but have picked up four bonus points to show that they are a much improved force than in 2015.

SQUAD NEWS
Wellington have made a couple of changes to the side that beat Bay of Plenty 24-10 last week. Jason Woodward shifts from wing to replace Peter Umaga-Jensen at fullback while Joe Hill takes Woodward’s spot on the wing. Upfront, Leni Apisai is being rested following a head knock with Wellington Under 19 star Asafo Aumua coming into the starting lineup. Northland have been boosted by the return of Jack Ram at openside flanker, Peter Breen at first five and Jone Macilai on the left wing.

WONDERFURL WHANGAREI
Despite being yet to register a victory this season, Northland will take confidence from Wellington’s last visit to the far north in 2014. On that day, the Taniwha romped to a comprehensive 35-5 victory over the Lions. Northland wing Jone Macilai was instrumental that day with two tries and will be looking to repeat his try-scoring heroics. A win for Northland will keep them in the hunt for an unlikely semifinal spot while a loss will leave them scrambling to avoid the wooden spoon.

TEAMS

Wellington:
Jason Woodward, Joe Hill, Matt Proctor, Shaun Treeby, Wes Goosen, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Hoani Matenga, Greg Foe, Brad Shields, Sam Lousi, Mark Reddish, Chris Baumann, Asafo Aumua, Reggie Goodes. 
Reserves: Valentine Meachen, Ha'amea Ahio, Finbarr Kerr-Newell, James Blackwell, Galu Taufale, Sheridan Rangihuna, Pakai Turia, Malo Tuitama

Northland: Guy Wood, Solomon Alaimalo, Tamati Tua, Dan Hawkins, Jone Macilai, Peter Breen, Sam Nock, Kara Pryor, Jack Ram, Tom Robinson, Shane Neville, Josh Goodhue, Phil Kite, Ross Wright, Namatahi Waa. 
Reserves: Nick Werahiko, Howard Sililoto, Matt Talaese, Michael Faleafa, Matt Matich, Malcolm MacLeod, Jordan Hyland, Waisea Lawebuka