Kirifi to lead Lions against Tasman Makos

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Openside flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi will lead the Wellington Lions in their Mitre 10 Cup season opener against the Tasman Mako at Blenheim's Lansdowne Park on Saturday.

Kirifi, who was named co-captain of the squad along with the injured Matt Proctor, will lead the Lions for the first time in his 17th appearance.

Lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi and fullback Connor Garden-Bachop will make their debuts in the run-on side while six players will get their first starts for the Lions if they come off the bench.

They include former Reds prop Sef Fa'agase and Italy lock Josh Furno while former Auckland utility back Vince Aso is also in line for his first appearance for the Lions.

Jackson Garden-Bachop provides experience in the pivotal position of first five-eighth in a backline with plenty of threats, especially out wide with Ben Lam and Wes Goosen named to start.

Gibbes was pleased with the build-up for the season opener which included a 24-15 win over Bay of Plenty and a 5-5 draw with Counties Manukau in a game of three halves last Saturday in Katikati.

"We had a good week away together which saw the guys come together really well," he said.

"We are well aware of the threat Tasman possess, especially playing at home, and it's an exciting challenge for the boys. Like all the teams, we want to start the season well and try and implement our game."

Kick-off is 2.05pm.

The Wellington Lions squad to meet Tasman is:

15 Connor Garden-Bachop (Northern United)
14 Wes Goosen (Old Boys University)
13 Billy Proctor (Marist St Pats)
12 Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wainuiomata)
11 Ben Lam (Tawa)
10 Jackson Garden-Bachop (Northern United)
9 Kemara Hauiti-Parapara (Tawa)
8 Teariki Ben-Nicholas (Old Boys University)
7 Du'Plessis Kirifi (Northern United) (c)
6 Mateki Kafatolu (Petone)
5 James Blackwell (Petone)
4 Naitoha Ah Kuoi (Marist St Pats)
3 Alex Fidow (Oriental-Rongotai)
2 James O'Reilly (Hutt Old Boys Marist)
1 Xavier Numia (Oriental-Rongotai)

Reserves

16 Kaliopasi Uluilakepa (Petone)
17 Sef Fa'agase (Johnsonville)
18 Morgan Poi (Old Boys University)
19 Josh Furno (Western Suburbs)
20 Galu Taufale (Poneke)
21 Connor Collins (Hutt Old Boys Marist)
22 Piri Paraone (Petone)
23 Vince Aso (Paremata-Plimmerton)