Proctor and Garden-Bachop to bring up 50th matches for Wellington Lions

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Captain Matt Proctor and Jackson Garden-Bachop will start in their 50th matches for the Wellington Lions when they meet Auckland at Westpac Stadium on Thursday night.

Proctor, who missed the Lions last Mitre 10 Cup match against Tasman, returns at centre in one of three changes to the starting XV.

Mateaki Kafatolu comes in at openside flanker in place of the injured Du'Plessis Kirifi while Thomas Umaga-Jensen is promoted from the bench to start in the midfield.

Proctor's return sees a number of positional changes to the backline where Wes Goosen moves from centre to fullback while Ben Lam moves from the back to the left wing.

The bench stays largely the same although there is a possible return for lock Sam Lousi who has been recovering from knee surgery. Lousi is bracketed with Will Mangos with a decision on whether he takes his place in the reserves to be made on match day.

Veteran loose forward Thomas Waldrom also returns to the bench.

Wellington Lions head coach Chris Gibbes has been pleased with the response from the squad after the loss to Tasman.

"While we have a relatively short turnaround there has been a real focus on what we need to do to improve in certain areas," he said.

"Auckland have been in really good form all season so we know the level of task ahead of us."

Kick-off is 7.35pm.

The Wellington Lions squad to meet Auckland is:

15 Wes Goosen (Old Boys University)
14 Malo Tuitama (Oriental-Rongotai)
13 Matt Proctor (Oriental-Rongotai) (c)
12 Thomas 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 Mateaki Kafatolu (Petone)
6 Galu Taufale (Poneke)
5 Isaia Walker-Leawere (Poneke)
4 James Blackwell (Petone)
3 Jeff To'omaga-Allen (Marist St Pats)
2 Asafo Aumua (Avalon)
1 Xavier Numia (Oriental-Rongotai)

Reserves

16 James O'Reilly (Hutt Old Boys Marist)
17 Tolu Fahamokioa (Tawa)
18 Joel Hintz (Old Boys University)
19 Sam Lousi (Marist St Pats) or Will Mangos (Old Boys University)
20 Thomas Waldrom (Avalon)
21 Carlos Price (Petone)
22 Billy Proctor (Marist St Pats)
23 Trent Renata (Oriental-Rongotai)