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So'oialo On Bench But Tialata Misses Quarterfinal

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Auckland, Oct 9 NZPA - Wellington welcome back one All Black but are denied another as the Air NZ Cup rugby favourites prepare to play Taranaki in their quarterfinal in Wellington on Saturday.

Rodney So'oialo has been named on the bench for the first time this season, his inclusion mirroring that of Richie McCaw's for tomorrow night's quarterfinal between Canterbury and Tasman.

The All Blacks No 8's availability is timely given that Victor Vito has been ruled out with a knee injury.

However, prop Neemia Tialata has not made the match-day 22 after reporting a swollen knee following last weekend's surprise 21-36 loss to Otago.

On a positive note for Wellington coach Jamie Joseph, 2006 All Blacks prop John Schwalger will start despite rolling an ankle at Carisbrook.

In other key changes from the side who surrendered Wellington's unbeaten record, fullback Cory Jane and the competition's leading tryscorer Hosea Gear are predictably restored to the back three after being rested last week.

Tamati Ellison returns to the midfield while Piri Weepu is also back after sitting out the trip south and will start at first five-eighth in favour of Daniel Fitzpatrick.

Ma'a Nonu, who scored after coming off the reserves bench last week, starts at second five-eighth in another understandable switch that sees Tane Tu'ipulotu drop to the reserves.

Jacob Ellison comes into the squad as the reserve prop, enabling tighthead Anthony Perenise, who was summoned back from his loan spell at Hawke's Bay, to return to Napier and start against Waikato in the final quarterfinal on Sunday.

Ellison has not played since dislocating an elbow on August 15 against Counties-Manukau.

Wellington remain the competition favourites but appear to have lost some momentum since lifting the Ranfurly Shield against Auckland on September 20.

Their first defence was a 26-20 win over Tasman before lowly Otago upset what was admittedly an under-strength side last Saturday.

Taranaki, who only claimed the eight and final playoff spot when Northland beat Auckland on Sunday, have made one injury-enforced change from the side who lost 41-45 to Waikato last week.

Welsh centre Jonathan Spratt has failed to overcome a back injury and is replaced by Nathan Hohaia.

W ellington: Cory Jane, Buxton Popoali'i, Tamati Ellison, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Piri Weepu (captain), Alby Matthewson, Scott Fuglistaller, Chris Masoe, Jeremy Thrush, Ross Filipo, Tim Fairbrother, Dane Coles, John Schwalger.

Reserves: Ged Robinson, Jacob Ellison, Api Naikatini, Rodney So'oialo, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Michael Hobbs, Tane Tu'ipulotu.

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