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Lions Named for Home Opener as Storm Week Arrives


After starting the season with two wins on the trot, the Wellington Lions have reached storm week, three games in nine days. First up, Southland this Saturday at the Hutt Rec.


Head Coach Tamati Ellison has named his side, in a match that doubles as the first Ranfurly Shield defence of this year’s edition of the Bunnings NPC.


Rest and rotation are key themes across this side, with a big week ahead, including another Shield defence on Wednesday at Sky Stadium against Tasman, if successful on Saturday.


“With potentially two Ranfurly Shield defences followed by a trip down to Canterbury, this is a tough run of fixtures. Keeping players fresh across the three matches is important not only for this week but as we progress through the season” Ellison said.


Ellison makes two changes in the front row, as Cameron Orr earns his first start, and PJ Sheck returns to the starting line-up, with James O’Reilly at hooker.


A new locking combo as Caleb Delany lines up next to Akira Ieremia, also earning his first Lions start.


Keelan Whitman returns to the pack after missing last week and will reclaim the #8 jersey, Du’Plessis Kirifi again captain’s the side from openside flanker, while Dominic Ropeti is also elevated for his starting debut, on the blindside.


Old Boys University’s Kyle Preston starts at halfback, with Ruben Love shifting from the back into the driver’s seat at first five.


After a successful return from injury last week, Riley Higgins moves back into the starting side, linking up in the midfield with half centurion Billy Proctor.


Like Higgins, Connor Garden-Bachop makes his way into the starting line-up after a successful return in Dunedin. Garden-Bachop comes on to the right wing, with Pepesana Patafilo on the left-hand side. Petone’s Tjay Clarke will make his NPC debut, starting at fullback.


On the bench, Josh Southall, Xavier Numia and Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe cover the front row. Tavita-Metcalfe in line for his first appearance of the season. Former Samoan international Teofilo Paulo is in line for his Wellington Lions debut, with Peter Lakai rounding out the forwards.


Halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, first five Aidan Morgan, and Losi Filipo all come off the bench, and will look to provide impact when required, after two weeks in the starting XV.


The Wellington Lions take on the Southland Stags in Round 3 of the Bunnings NPC this Saturday, 2:05pm at the Hutt Rec. Tickets are available online from


The Lions then return to their more familiar home of Sky Stadium on Wednesday night, taking on the Tasman Mako at 7:05pm.


Lions side to take on Southland:

  1. Cameron Orr
  2. James O’Reilly
  3. PJ Sheck
  4. Caleb Delany
  5. Akira Ieremia
  6. Dominic Ropeti
  7. Du’Plessis Kirifi ©
  8. Keelan Whitman
  9. Kyle Preston
  10. Ruben Love
  11. Pepesana Patafilo
  12. Riley Higgins
  13. Billy Proctor
  14. Connor Garden-Bachop
  15. Tjay Clarke
  16. Josh Southall
  17. Xavier Numia
  18. Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe
  19. Teofilo Paulo*
  20. Peter Lakai
  21. Kemara Hauiti-Parapara
  22. Aidan Morgan
  23. Losi Filipo