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Ranfurly Shield on the line for the first time in season of new tenure as both teams named

The Wellington Lions match-day squad to defend the Ranfurly Shield on Wednesday is:

1. Ha’amea Ahio (Johnsonville)
2. Asafo Aumua (Avalon)
3. PJ Sheck (Tawa)
4. Hugo Plummer (Tawa)
5. Dominic Bird (Upper Hutt Rams) vice-captain
6. Dominic Ropeti* (Oriental-Rongotai)
7. Sione Halalilo (Oriental-Rongotai)
8. Keelan Whitman (Marist St Pats)
9. Logan Henry* (Petone)
10. Aidan Morgan (Marist St Pats)
11. Isi Saumaki (Tawa)
12. Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wainuiomata) captain
13. Ethan Webster-Nonu* (Paremata-Plimmerton)
14. Joe Faleafaga* (Paremata-Plimmerton)
15. TJ Clarke* (Petone)
16. Joyner Gaualofa (Tawa)
17. Kaliopasi Uluilakepa (Petone)
18. Josiah Tevita-Metcalfe (Northern United)
19. Anthony Pettett* (Johnsonville)
20. Akira Ieremia* (Tawa)
21. Kyle Preston* (Old Boys University)
22. Sam Clarke* (Paremata-Plimmerton)
23. Louis Northcott* (Paremata-Plimmerton)

The Horowhenua-Kapiti team is:


Wainuiomata midfielder Peter Umaga-Jensen will captain a Wellington Lions XV in Wednesday’s opening defence of the Ranfurly Shield of the new tenure.

The team will defend the Log o’ Wood as the holder at the start of the seasn for the first time since 2009 when they take the field at Levin Domain for a 2.05pm kick-off against Horowhenua-Kapiti.

Wednesday’s side, the first with Ellison in charge, features a mix of youth and experience, with the added inclusion of players from the championship-winning 2022 side a welcome sight.

“We’re fortunate enough to have the services of players like Asafo Aumua, Aidan Morgan and more,” said new head coach Tamati Ellison.

Aumua has returned home from Japan with the All Blacks XV for “personal reasons.”

Umaga-Jensen will captain the side, with lock Dominic Bird named vice-captain.

Up to a dozen players will make their Wellington Lions debut in this match, should they take the field.

In the front row, Aumua is joined by PJ Sheck, fresh off a Super Rugby campaign with the Highlanders and 60 minutes of tough rugby against Old Boys University at Nairnville Park on Saturday, and Johnsonville’s Ha’amea Ahio, coming in fresh after the Hawks’ bye on Saturday.

Dominic Bird and Tawa’s Hugo Plummer have both seen the field for the Hurricanes this season, and will bring valuable experience in the locking department, with debutant Dominic Ropeti on the blindside, his Oriental-Rongotai teammate Sione Halalilo on the openside, and Marist St Pat’s captain Keelan Whitman at No. 8. Whitman is also coming in relatively fresh, having missed much of the club rugby season through injury.

Former Manawatu and current Petone halfback Logan Henry is set for a debut for his home province, and will partner Aidan Morgan, who will look to claim the number 10 jersey as his own for the season.

Umaga-Jensen pairs with Paremata-Plimmerton debutant Ethan Webster-Nonu. The back three of Isi Saumaki, Joe Faleafaga and TJ Clarke at fullback will all look to take their club rugby form into this match as the trio earn a first-class debut.

Faleafaga has pace and the skills to match, having played outside Webster-Nonu at Paremata-Plimmerton all season, former Tasman player and now Tawa player Saumaki has size and raw talent, while Clarke offers a left footing kicking option.

On the bench, Tawa hooker Joyner Gaualofa will provide backup for Aumua, Northern United’s Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe returns to the Lions set up, as does Fijian Drua prop Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, who received his clearance to play for Petone late last week.

Potential debutants throughout the remainder of the reserves bench, Anthony Pettett and Akira Ieremia round out the forwards, Kyle Preston is joined by the Paremata-Plimmerton duo Sam Clarke and Louis Northcott to round out the 23. Northcott is coming off a hat-trick on his last appearance on Levin Domain, in last year’s Heartland Championshop Lochore Cup semi-final against Ngati Porou East Coast.

The match will be the first Ranfurly Shield match played at Levin Domain in 30 years, and the home’s team’s first challenge since missing out 16-50 to Hawke’s Bay 16-50 at Napier in 2015.

Meanwhile, Horowhenua-Kapiti have selected several familiar names to Wellington club rugby followers.

Current OBU front rower Samson Koneferenisi has been named at tighthead prop, backing up his big shift in Saturday’s Jubilee Cup win over Tawa.

Former OBU loose forward Jack Riley is joined by former Norths loose forward Callum Watts-Pointer, who is now playing his rugby for Paraparaumu.

In the backs, former Norths player – and brother of the Wellington coach – Leon Ellison is at halfback and former OBU player Hamish Buick is at first-five.

Former OBU Jubilee Cup winner Regan Verney is outside this pair in the 12 jersey.

The home side will be fielding 12 debutants, but several stalwarts remain, led by 107-game lock and captain Ryan Shelford and 67-game blindside flanker Aaron Lahmert being key players.


The match kicks off at 2:05pm on Wednesday at Levin Domain, and will be live on Sky Sport.

Club Rugby will be coming in hot with coverage, both written and visual

The Lions have stated that tickets for the match, as well as 2023 Wellington Lions memberships can be bought at

The Horowhena-Kapiti union has also stated that tickets can be purchased on the gate, which opens at 12.30pm.

Rumours of a post-match dance party to dawn at Ohau are unsubstantiated.

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