Vito benched for Harbour battle
August 26, 2013
Jeffery Toomaga-Allen has impressed as the Lions' have begun their season with consecutive victories © Getty Images
Wellington have made wholesale changes to the 22-man squad that will play North Harbour at Westpac Stadium on Wednesday.
Mindful of two games in four days, coach Chris Boyd has mixed up the side to ensure they will be more than prepared for the game against Manawatu on Sunday.
Regular loose forward Victor Vito, John Schwalger, Adam Hill, Frae Wilson and Shaun Treeby are all set to ride the pine for the hosts' third match of the 2013 ITM Cup campaign. Lock Mark Reddish is unavailable through injury and will be replaced by Wellington club debutant Vaea Fifita.
Ross Filipo's absence from the 22-man side is the consequence for the return of skipper Jeremy Thrush who, along with TJ Perenara, have been released by the All Blacks to ensure they get plenty of game time as the Rugby Championship takes a week off.
Vito has been replaced by Faifili Levave, who was dynamic from the bench in his side's 29-10 win over Taranaki on Friday. Reggie Goodes will start in the No.1 jersey, while the electric Ardie Savea will start at No.6 ahead of Hill.
Wellington's wealth in the forwards has seen Boyd name a 5-2 split on the bench, with only scrum-half Wilson and Treeby providing cover for the backs. There has also been a positional change. Matt Proctor has been shifted from wing to fullback for Wednesday's match as Wellington try to secure three emphatic victories to put the pressure on five-time defending champions Canterbury.
North Harbour have been thoroughly competitive in their past two encounters with the hosts, with Wellington only winning their 2011 match by a point (29-28) in the final round robin game of the season. Last year, North Harbour showed they could be competitive away from home despite going down 28-34 to Wellington.
Fans could argue the scoreline that day was flattering - Nafi Tuitavake's 79th minute try reduced the deficit to six - but the slim margin showed the side won't lie down when the two teams collide on Wednesday.