Lions Team Named to Take on Bay of Plenty at Sky Stadium
Coach Leo Crowley has named a mix of youth and experience to face the Bay of Plenty Steamers in the Lion’s opening round of the 2022 Bunnings Warehouse NPC competition on Sunday.
The front row sees the return of hooker James O’Reilly who lines up alongside props Xavier Numia and PJ Sheck. Off the bench, they are backed by All Blacks hooker Asafo Aumua and debutant props, Northern United’s Bradley Crichton and Tawa’s Siale Lauaki.
Powerhouse locks James Blackwell and Dominic Bird have been named in the run-on side, backed up by Hurricanes teammate Caleb Delany.
Flanker Du’Plessis Kirifi will captain Wellington in his fourth season as skipper, alongside loose forward's Taine Plumtree and newcomer, Wellington Rugby Academy graduate, Peter Lakai.
19-year-old Lakai (Petone) will make his first appearance for the Lions in the Bunnings NPC, having joined the Lions squad in 2021 as injury cover before debuting against Southland in a non-competition game.
Halfback TJ Perenara will line up alongside first five Aidan Morgan, with Richard Judd and Jackson Garden-Bachop looking to provide impact off the bench.
Petone’s Riley Higgins is set to make his Lions debut in the midfield alongside the electric Billy Proctor, while Ruben Love starts at fullback and will again look for support in the form of finishers Pepesana Patafilo and Julian Savea.
With three players set to make their Lions debut, Crowley said it was a special moment for the players and the Wellington Rugby Academy.
“It’s really exciting for Wellington rugby to have three boys who, alongside Lakai, have been in the academy together over the past few years, and for them to be able to run out on their home ground and debut together is pretty special. These boys are all very talented in their own way, so we are looking forward to seeing how they contribute out on the paddock,” said Crowley.
The Lions take on the Bay of Plenty Steamers in Round 1 at Sky Stadium, Wellington on Sunday, 7 August at 4:35pm. Ticket start at $20 for an adult and are available here.
Wellington Lions to take on Bay of Plenty:
1. Xavier Numia, Oriental-Rongotai
2. James O’Reilly, Hutt Old Boys Marist
3. PJ Sheck, Tawa
4. James Blackwell, Petone
5. Dominic Bird, Upper Hutt Rams
6. Taine Plumtree, Old Boys University
7. Du’Plessis Kirifi, Northern United (c)
8. Peter Lakai, Petone
9. TJ Perenara, Northern United
10. Aidan Morgan, Marist St Pats
11. Pepesana Patafilo, Tawa
12. Riley Higgins, Petone *
13. Billy Proctor, Marist St Pats
14. Julian Savea, Oriental-Rongotai
15. Ruben Love, Wainuiomata
16. Asafo Aumua, Avalon
17. Bradley Crichton, Northern United *
18. Siale Lauaki, Tawa *
19. Caleb Delany, Old Boys University
20. Keelan Whitman, Marist St Pats
21. Richard Judd, Paremata-Plimmerton
22. Jackson Garden-Bachop, Northern United
23. Connor Garden-Bachop, Northern United
Unavailable for Selection: Vince Sakaria, Tietie Tuimauga, Connor Collins, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Losi Filipo, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Solomona Sakalia, Iona Apineru.