Wellington Lions coach Chris Boyd has had no option but to field an inexperienced side for Saturday's NPC opener against Waikato at Westpac Stadium.
With half of his contracted players unavailable through a scarcely believable injury toll, Boyd has been forced to look to the young talent in club rugby as the Lions attempt to go one better than last season's runner-up finish.
No 8 Brad Shields - himself only 23 - will captain a starting line-up including relative no-names Leni Apisai (hooker), James Wall (lock), Christian Lloyd (lock), Vaea Fifita (blindside), Jared Kahu (halfback) and Tau Mamea (wing).
"I'm excited for this first match, and I'm excited to work with a fresh bunch of guys who are keen to get stuck in and do the work, and give everything they have for the Lions jersey," Shields said.
"Personally, I won't be changing anything in terms of the way I play. I'm just planning to stick to my game, and help the team in any way I can as their captain."
Fa'atonu Fili will wear No 10, following the season-ending injury to former British Lion Riki Flutey.
Wellington: Jason Woodward, Ambrose Curtis, Ope Peleseuma, Shaun Treeby, Tau Mamea, Fa'atonu Fili, Jared Kahu, Brad Shields (c), Adam Hill, Vaea Fifita, Christian Lloyd, James Wall, Eric Sione, Leni Apisai, Reggie Goodes. Reserves: James O'Reilly, Tolu Fahamokioa, Taniela Koroi, Henry Stowers, Sheridan Rangihuna, Wes Goosen, James So'oialo
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