There is not a weak­ness to be seen in the Welling­ton squad and they would love to send off coach Chris Boyd as a cham­pion.

Once again the Lions were beaten at the fi­nal hur­dle and the sight of Ge­orge White­lock plant­ing a red and black on West­pac Sta­dium should be all the mo­ti­va­tion the men from the cap­i­tal need. TOBY ROB­SON re­ports.

NZ Rugby World - - Contents - Coach: Chris Boyd

The Big Pic­ture

Peren­nial brides­maids Welling­ton fell short at yet another provin­cial fi­nal last year. Old ri­val Can­ter­bury rubbed salt in the wounds by lift­ing the ti­tle at West­pac Sta­dium with cap­tain Ge­orge White­lock driv­ing a red and black flag in the cen­tre of the field. That’ll pro­vide plenty of mo­ti­va­tion for the Lions who re­main and they cer­tainly have the tal­ent to make the sea­son finale again in 2014.

The Lions have Su­per Rugby grunt up front with a fron­trow of Jeffery Toomaga- Allen, Motu Matu’u and Reg­gie Goodes with locks Jeremy Thrush and Ross Filipo in be­hind. But with open­side Ardie Savea’s pace and the ex­pe­ri­ence of Riki Flutey at first five- eighth, they will likely play an ex­pan­sive brand of rugby. Matt Proc­tor, New Zealand sev­ens player Am­brose Cur­tis and re­turned Mel­bourne Rebel Ja­son Wood­ward pro­vide the fin­ish out­side High­landers mid­fielder Shaun Treeby.

Ris­ing St ar

Chris­tian Lloyd. Two years ago the big lock was named in the Lions squad for the 2011 com­pe­ti­tion, but didn’t fea­ture. A

Vi­sion State­ment Our mantra is Welling­ton for Welling­ton. In my three years I have re­frained from ap­proach­ing any­body out­side Welling­ton. Pride in the colours, pride in the jersey and where you come from. Welling­ton coach Chris Boyd

year later he played in the New Zealand Un­der 20s and at 1.98m and 115kg was be­ing tipped for big things. In­jury meant the Up­per Hutt lock has barely been sighted since, but he’s fit and he’s fir­ing this sea­son in Welling­ton club rugby. The Lions have some de­cent lock­ing stocks, but don’t be sur­prised if the 22 year old pushes his way in.

Old dog

Riki Flutey, at 34- years- old, is still as young at heart as ever. With an au­da­cious streak that rubs off on those around him and a fa­nat­i­cal ap­proach to his fit­ness train­ing, the for­mer Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions and Eng­land mid­fielder is mo­ti­vated to end his ca­reer with a bang over the next cou­ple of years. Flutey played 58 times for Welling­ton be­fore em­bark­ing on a nine- year over­seas ca­reer that took in 14 tests for Eng­land and a place in the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions in 2009.

New Ar­rivals

First five- eighth Lima Sopoaga’s shift to South­land is the most sig­nif­i­cant of sev­eral high pro­file de­par­tures. Also gone are mid­field­ers Tim Bate­man ( Ja­pan) and Ala­p­ati Leiua ( Eng­land), while se­nior prop John Sch­wal­ger’s lung prob­lems mean he’ll miss most, if not all, of the sea­son. The ar­rival of Flutey cov­ers Sopoaga to some de­gree, but the mid­field is a con­cern. Boyd may want to con­vert an out­side back like Matt Proc­tor to play cen­tre out­side Treeby and Ope Pale­se­uma, who has re­turned af­ter a year in Taranaki. Full­back Wood­ward is also back from a cou­ple of pro­duc­tive years with the Mel­bourne Rebels.

HIGH TEMPO The speed of Ardie Savea will al­low the Lions to play at real pace.

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