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PREVIEW: Wellington v North Harbour (Semi-final)

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Thursday, October 20, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Wellington goes into the semi-final having won six games in the Championship, but having lost their last three, to Manawatu (28-50), Taranaki (31-54) and Waikato (24-28). North Harbour, who have enjoyed their most successful season for some years have won five games with one draw, in their penultimate match 27-27 with Tasman. In their last outing they beat Northland 44-28.

Played: 30

Wins: Wellington 19, North Harbour 11

Last match: Wellington 21 North Harbour 17 in Wellington 2016

Teams:

Wellington: 1.Reggie Goodes, 2.Leni Apisai, 3.Chris Baumann, 4.Mark Reddish, 5.Sam Lousi, 6.Vaea Fifita, 7.Brad Shields, 8.Hoani Matenga, 9.Tomasi Palu, 10.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 11.Wes Goosen, 12.Shaun Treeby, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Joe Hill, 15.Jason Woodward.

Substitutes: 16.Asafo Aumua, 17.Vince Sakaria, 18.Alex Fidow, 19.James Blackwell, 20.Greg Foe, 21.Sheridan Rangihuna, 22.Mike Lealava'a, 23.Peter Umaga-Jensen.

North Harbour: 1.Nic Mayhew, 2.Adrian Smith, 3.Sione Mafileo, 4.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5.Chris Vui, 6.Glen Preston, 7.Connor Collett, 8.Murphy Taramai, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Bryn Gatland, 11.Tevita Li, 12.Michael Little, 13.Matt Vaega, 14.Matt Duffie, 15.Matt McGahan.

Substitutes: 16.Ray Niuia/Vyron Smith, 17.Jody Allen, 18.Jethro Felemi, 19.Brandon Nanson/Josh Tyrell, 20.Hapakuki Moala-Liavaa/Kane Jacobs, 21.Chris Smylie, 22.Daniel Hilton-Jones, 23.Afa Faatau.

Squad Update: Centre Matt Proctor returns to the side which sees Wes Goosen return to the left wing and Salesi Rayasi drops out of the squad. Jason Woodward returns at fullback with Peter Umaga-Jensen dropping back to the reserves. On the bench James Blackwell replaces Galu Taufale and Pakai Turia makes way for Umaga-Jensen. For North Harbour captain Chris Vui returns from the blindside flank to lock while Brandon Nanson and Josh Tyrell are bracketed in the reserves. No other changes have been made to the starting side which has one of the more settled backlines in the competition.

Key Players: In what is a must-win game for Wellington who are desperate to regain Premiership status there is a strong look to the side. With Reggie Goodes' ability up front to call on and the support of hooker Leni Apisai and the mobility of locks Mark Reddish and Sam Lousi Wellington do have the grunt. Their loose forwards with Vaea Fifita a constant threat and the experience of Brad Shields, the North Harbour pack will have the job in front of them. But with prop Nic Mayhew, Vui and Sione Mafileo North Harbour will be competitive. Where the game could swing is in the backline where two fine combinations will compete. North Harbour took the game to Wellington in their last outing and they have the potential to do it again. On home turf the Wellington combination will be favoured and the return of Proctor will be a significant boost.