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Fifita and Coles return to Lions for must-win match tonight

Loose forward Vaea Fifita will return to the starting line-up tonight for the Wellington Lions in their crucial last Mitre 10 premiership round robin match against Taranaki in New Plymouth.


Fifita was part of the All Blacks squad in Argentina and South Africa but did not feature in either Rugby Championship test match.

His inclusion in the starting XV is one of three changes from the run-on side which was narrowly beaten by premiership leaders Auckland last round.

The other changes come in the front row where Tolu Fahamokioa comes in at loosehead prop for the injured Xavier Numia while Billy Proctor is named in the midfield in place of Thomas Umaga-Jensen who moves to the bench.

There are a number of changes in the reserves, including the return of All Blacks hooker Dane Coles who will make his much anticipated return to rugby after a serious knee injury.

Wellington Lions head coach Chris Gibbes said the squad was disappointed with the way the match ended against Auckland and he believed they had learnt some valuable lessons from the loss.

The Lions need maximum competition points against Taranaki to guarantee themselves a spot in the Mitre 10 Cup premiership semi-finals while the home side needs to win to avoid relegation from the top flight.

“We know how desperate Taranaki are going to be but we are equally desperate to make sure our season continues,” Gibbes said.

“There is plenty riding on the match for both sides and we hope we can get back into winning mode and make the play-offs because no one in our squad wants their season to end at this stage.”

Kick-off is 7.35pm.

The Wellington Lions squad to meet Taranaki is:
15 Wes Goosen (Old Boys University)
14 Ben Lam (Tawa)
13 Matt Proctor (Oriental-Rongotai) (c)
12 Billy Proctor (Marist St Pats)
11 Malo Tuitama (Oriental-Rongotai)
10 Jackson Garden-Bachop (Northern United)
9 Kemara Hauiti-Parapara (Tawa)
8 Teariki Ben-Nicholas (Old Boys University)
7 Mateaki Kafatolu (Petone)
6 Vaea Fifita (Wellington)
5 Isaia Walker-Leawere (Poneke)
4 James Blackwell (Petone)
3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen (Marist St Pats)
2 Asafo Aumua (Avalon)
1 Tolu Fahamokioa (Tawa)

16 Dane Coles (Poneke)
17 Sitiveni Paongo (Tawa)
18 Joel Hintz (Old Boys University)
19 Sam Lousi (Marist St Pats)
20 Galu Taufale (Poneke)
21 Carlos Price (Petone)
22 Thomas Umaga-Jensen (Wainuiomata)
23 Trent Renata (Oriental-Rongotai)