The Wellington College first XV are about to have their depth tested.
The team will play four games in the space of 11 days, beginning with a premier one quarterfinal against Aotea College today.
That will be followed by two games in Christchurch early next week, in the long established annual quadrangular tournament, with the likelihood of a premier one semifinal in Wellington the following Saturday.
"There have been a few injuries but, if the quad tournament goes well, it can be a really good launching pad for what happens next," Wellington College coach Lincoln Rawles said.
"The quad is a very important part of our year and if we are successful, the boys will come back on a high and take that into the next game. But if it [quad] doesn't go well, it's a much harder proposition to get the boys up."
Recent history, together with current form, suggests that Wellington will be the team to beat at the quad tournament, which began as a triangular, between Wellington, Wanganui Collegiate and Christ's College, in 1890 and became a quad when Nelson College joined the competition in 1925.
Wellington, who play Wanganui Collegiate on Monday, have won nine finals in succession and have not lost a game at the tournament since 2002. They should be too strong for Wanganui but Nelson, who are their likely final opponents, have had another good year in the Press Cup competition.
Wellington lock James Blackwell, who has been sidelined for a lengthy period with a stress fracture in a foot, is likely to play at the quad, though his return will be carefully managed.
"He's a high quality player and the type of player you need for finals rugby but he won't be match fit," Rawles said. "We don't want to give him too much, too soon."
However, Blackwell's return might be offset by the loss of No 8 Luke Tau'alupe, who has an Achilles strain, to be assessed this week.
Wellington have given away home advantage to get the premier one quarterfinal against Aotea brought forward to today.
That will have little impact on the result, with Wellington unbeaten in the local competition while Aotea failed to record a win in round robin play.
The other quarterfinals will be played on Saturday, with Silverstream playing Hutt International, Scots up against Rongotai and St Pat's Town taking on St Bernard's.
Silverstream, Scots and Town will be favoured to win, after beating their rivals in round robin play and finishing ahead on the table, but will need to play well.
Town had a narrow victory over St Bernard's last month and will be missing their brilliant fullback Tauasosi Tuimavave, who suffered another broken arm - his third in two years - in the traditional against Silverstream last week. St Bernard's finished fifth on the table and were more competitive against Scots last week than the 19-0 scoreline suggests.
- The Dominion Post
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