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Wellington Lions Name 2023 Squad to Defend Bunnings NPC Title

Wellington Lions Head Coach Tamati Ellison has named his 40-man squad tasked with defending the Bunnings NPC title, kicking off this weekend.


The squad features All Blacks Ardie Savea and Dane Coles, as well as 20 players who saw the field in Super Rugby this season.


Returning to the squad is England international Brad Shields, who is home after a long stint overseas, as does halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, who spent the 2022 season with Otago.


Ellison said he was pleased with the depth in the squad, across the board.


“We’ve got a lot of strength covering each position, which is a good problem to have when it comes to selection each week.”


Peter Lakai and Siale Lauaki return after playing at the Under 20 World Championships in South Africa, Bradley Crichton and Dominic Ropeti also saw game time pre-World Championships against Australia.


Over half of the championship winning side from 2022 returns to the squad, with all eyes set on defending the title, as well as protecting the Ranfurly Shield for the year.


The strength of Wellington club rugby also shines through across the squad, with seven players selected for the first time off the back of the club season.


“We’ve seen a lot of exciting young players in the club competition, and again left us with some hard selection decisions, but we believe those picked from club rugby have what it takes once called upon” said Ellison.


In the forwards, Tawa’s Akira Ieremia earns a call up, while the spread of club talent across the backs is impressive. Petone’s Tjay Clarke joins the squad for the first time alongside Chicago Doyle, Joe Faleafaga, Sam Howling, Kyle Preston and Isi Saumaki.


Jubilee Cup Final MVP Dominic Ropeti, Hugo Plummer and Bradley Crichton are in, off the back of signing their first contracts with the Lions.


Melbourne Rebels prop Cameron Orr jumps over the ditch to join the squad, for some added firepower and experience in the front row.


The Wellington Rugby Academy also gains some more graduates into the squad, the likes of Chicago Doyle, Sam Howling and Isi Saumaki paving the way to success for Academy members welcomed in from outside of the Wellington region, a pleasant sight for Ellison.


“It’s great to welcome in the academy graduates, not only those who are locals, but the players who have committed to the move to Wellington. Again this shows the strength in our Academy and that the pathway is alive and well.”


After two successful Ranfurly Shield defences to kick off season 2023, the team get their Bunnings NPC title defence underway away to Manawatu, on August 5th.


Wellington Lions 2023 Squad:

Ha’amea Ahio - Johnsonville

Asafo Aumua - Avalon

Dominic Bird – Upper Hutt Rams

Sam Clarke – Paremata-Plimmerton

Tjay Clarke - Petone

Dane Coles - Pōneke

Bradley Crichton – Northern United

Caleb Delany – Old Boys University

Chicago Doyle - Marist St Pats

Joe Faleafaga - Paremata-Plimmerton

Losi Filipo - Petone

Connor Garden-Bachop – Northern United
Sione Halalilo – Oriental-Rongotai

Kemara Hauiti-Parapara - Tawa

Riley Higgins - Petone

Sam Howling - Pōneke

Akira Ieremia - Tawa

Du’Plessis Kirifi – Northern United

Peter Lakai - Petone

Siale Lauaki - Tawa

Ruben Love - Wainuiomata

Aidan Morgan – Marist St Pats

Xavier Numia – Oriental-Rongotai

James O’Reilly – Hutt Old Boys Marist

Cameron Orr - Western Suburbs

Pepesana Patafilo - Tawa

TJ Perenara- Northern United

Hugo Plummer – Tawa

Kyle Preston - Old Boys University

Billy Proctor – Marist St Pats

Dominic Ropeti - Oriental-Rongotai

Isi Saumaki - Tawa

Ardie Savea – Oriental-Rongotai

Julian Savea – Oriental-Rongotai

PJ Sheck - Tawa

Brad Shields – Petone

Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe – Northern United

Peter Umaga-Jensen – Wainuiomata

Ethan Webster-Nonu – Paremata-Plimmerton

Keelan Whitman – Marist St Pats