Not required for national duty, backup All Black halfback Alby Mathewson has been drafted straight into the Wellington team to meet Otago in Dunedin on Saturday night.
With Jimmy Cowan passing his fitness test, clearing the Southland halfback for departure with the All Blacks for South Africa on Saturday, Wellington coach Jamie Joseph has had no hesitation in calling up Mathewson for his first provincial start of the season in Dunedin.
The speedy halfback had a dramatic last weekend, welcoming his first baby into the world on Friday evening in Wellington and then making his test debut off the bench for the All Blacks on Saturday night in Christchurch.
He was hopeful of making the trip to the republic, but will now have to focus his efforts on firming his status as next No 9 cab off the rank behind Cowan and Piri Weepu.
The match will be Joseph's last in charge of the Lions before he leaves to concentrate on his new job as coach of the Highlanders, and ironically he will be looking to plot a third straight defeat this season for the host union of his new franchise, not to mention his old team.
Wellington have made four changes to the starting XV that were upset 31-25 by Counties Manukau in the capital last Sunday.
As well as Mathewson coming in for Ruki Tipuna at halfback, Charlie Ngatai gets the shot at centre after an impressive display off the bench last week, Mark Reddish replaces Api Naikatini on the blindside flank and experienced loosehead prop John Schwalger returns.
Several Lions have been given a chance to atone for a pretty slipshod performance against the Steelers, foremost among them No 8 Faifili Levave who made a number of crucial handling errors that the visitors feasted off.
Joseph has left intact his impressive back three who nearly helped get the Lions up to victory last weekend, with Hosea Gear and Julian Salvea continuing their impressive performances this year on the wing.
The Lions went down 36-21 in their last visit to Dunedin, but did tpple the southerners 23-19 in last year's shield challenge in the capital.
The match kicks off at 7.35pm on Saturday night at Carisbrook, with Otago looking to bounce back from yet another shield disappointment last weekend in Invercargill.
WELLINGTON: 15 Apoua Stewart, 14 Julian Salvea, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Fa'atonu Fili, 9 Alby Mathewson; 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Mark Reddish, 5 Daniel Ramsay, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata (capt), 2 Dane Coles, 1 John Schwalger. Reserves: Ged Robinson, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Api Naikatini, 19 TJ Ioane, 20 Ruki Tipuna, 21 Hayden Cripps, 22 Alapati Leuia.
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