Vaea Fifita will start for the Wellington Lions against Bay of Plenty in Rotorua on Thursday. PHOTO: Getty Sport

Fifita and To'omaga-Allen to start against Bay of Plenty
29.08.2017

All Blacks squad members Vaea Fifita and Jeff To'omaga-Allen will start for the Wellington Lions against Bay of Plenty in Rotorua on Thursday.

It will mark the duo's first match of the 2017 Mitre 10 Cup after they were released by the All Blacks for provincial duties.

Fifita starts at blindside and To'omaga-Allen at tighthead prop in a revamped Lions squad.

Wellington head coach Chris Gibbes has made six personnel changes to the team that started against Taranaki in round two and a further four in the reserves.

To'omaga-Allen, who was set to start against Taranaki before being called up for national duties, replaces Alex Fidow in the No.3 jersey with the young prop moving to the reserves.

Fifita moves into a reshuffled loose trio which sees captain Brad Shields shift back to No.8 and Samoan international Galu Taufale come into the side at openside.

The changes allow first year Lions Du'Plessis Kirifi and Teariki Ben-Nicholas to have a well-earned rest, and similarly young lock Isaia Walker-Leawere replaces James Blackwell in the second row.

In the backline, Marist St Pats fullback Andrew Wells takes the place of Trent Renata who pulled his hamstring during the win over Taranaki.

It will be Wells' fourth cap for the Lions after one match in 2013 and two in 2014.

The final change sees Malo Tuitama come into the side on the right wing in place of Julian Savea, who has the week off after starting the first two matches of the campaign.

In the reserves loose forward Will Mangos, openside James Tuiatua, halfback Carlos Price and wing Losi Filipo are all set to make their Lions debuts.

"We've had a solid start to the season with back-to-back wins now we enter a tough stretch of matches that will test the depth of our squad," Gibbes said of the changes to the squad. "We expect Bay of Plenty to be very tough in Rotorua and I know the guys who have come in are excited about the challenge."

Wellington currently lead the Mitre 10 Cup Championship standings, while Bay of Plenty are in second place after a close away loss to Northland and an impressive 46-17 win over Hawke's Bay in Rotorua.

Wellington beat Bay of Plenty 24-10 when the team's last played, at Westpac Stadium in 2016.

The Wellington Lions team to play Bay of Plenty in Rotorua on Thursday, August 31 at 7.35pm is:

15 Andrew Wells (Marist St Pats)

14 Malo Tuitama (Oriental Rongotai)

13 Wes Goosen (Old Boys University)

12 Regan Verney (Old Boys University)

11 Ben Lam (Tawa)

10 Jackson Garden-Bachop (Northern United)

9 Kemara Hauiti-Parapara (Tawa)

8 Brad Shields (c) (Petone)

7 Galu Taufale (Poneke)

6 Vaea Fifita (Wellington)

5 Sam Lousi (Marist St Pats)

4 Isaia Walker-Leawere (Poneke)

3 Jeff To'omaga-Allen (Marist St Pats)

2 Asafo Aumua (Avalon)

1 Tolu Fahamokioa (Tawa)

Reserves:

16 Sitiveni Paongo (Tawa)

17 Vince Sakaria (Marist St Pats)

18 Alex Fidow (Oriental-Rongotai)

19 Will Mangos (Old Boys University)

20 James Tuia (Marist St Pats)

21 Carlos Price (Petone)

22 Dan Kirkpatrick (Petone)

23 Losi Filipo (Petone)