Bryce Lawrence might be about to ride off into the refereeing sunset but not before having the potential to determine Wellington's NPC premiership destiny.
The Lions meet Auckland in tomorrow's semifinal at Westpac Stadium, with the sound of Lawrence's whistle still ringing in their ears from the last time the two teams met.
That was back on September 22, at Eden Park, when Auckland were 43-30 winners after Wellington found themselves on the wrong end of a lop-sided penalty count.
Lawrence announced this week that the hard time he has received in the wake of an inept performance during last year's Rugby World Cup has sent him into an early retirement. He'll take up a desk job at the New Zealand Rugby Union next year, having decided that his international career is effectively over.
He controlled Wellington's most recent match, against Taranaki on Sunday, when he largely left the players to it.
But the Lions are aware that Lawrence is rarely quiet for long.
"That performance against Auckland last time was comfortably our worst.
"We got bullied at the breakdown area and they had a fairly big say in that area, so that'd be the first thing we need to correct," Wellington coach Chris Boyd said.
"We also conceded an awful lot of penalties. Bryce was pretty tough on us, I felt, and every time we got some momentum we gave away a penalty and [Auckland first five-eighth] Gareth Anscombe I think scored 27 points in the game.
"So discipline was certainly a big factor and we've talked about that a lot this week."
Anscombe actually scored 28 points in that match but Boyd can be forgiven for losing count. Still, you take his point, even if it's a bit more subtle than when he said "there's absolutely no doubt they [Lawrence's decisions] weren't all correct" after the 43-30 loss.
The fact is Wellington will have to mind how they go about things on the paddock and they do have to be better at the breakdown.
Having hinted that playing twin "fetchers" Ardie Savea and Scott Fuglistaller, might not be a goer this week, Boyd has picked them both to meet Auckland.
It's a ploy that worked a treat against Taranaki but, equally, Savea's lack of bulk was badly exposed when Wellington lost to Canterbury, in their only other defeat of the season.
But when you base your game around speed, as the Lions have, then pairing Savea and Fuglistaller is a risk worth taking.
With those two remaining together, the only change to the team that beat Taranaki 33-17 is the return at tighthead prop of Jeff Toomaga-Allen.
He was originally named to start that game but was withdrawn on the day and replaced by Arden David-Perrot. He didn't make it through the warm-up, leaving Eric Sione to play the first 75 minutes of the match instead.
Toomaga-Allen still isn't training fully but at least he's moving more freely than a couple of his team-mates.
Centre Alapati Leiua sat out all of yesterday's team session with a leg problem, while wing Jason Woodward was a no-show.
"Jason had a little battle with a bit of chicken that wasn't so good, so he succumbed to Delhi Belly.
"He'll be fine and he'll be at training tomorrow [today]. He's just been isolated," Boyd said.
Lima Sopoaga ran at centre, in Leiua's place yesterday, with Ambrose Curtis filling in on Woodward's left wing.
Auckland have concerns over the fitness of lock Ali Williams.
He's been named to start but is being troubled by a back problem.
Wellington: Charlie Ngatai, Matt Proctor, Alapati Leiua, Shaun Treeby, Jason Woodward, Tim Bateman, Frae Wilson, Ardie Savea, Scott Fuglistaller, Ross Filipo, Mark Reddish, Jeremy Thrush (c), Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Reggie Goodes. Reserves: Motu Matu'u, Eric Sione, Lua Lokotui, Genesis Mamea, Kayne Hammington, Lima Sopoaga, Ambrose Curtis
Auckland: Charles Piutau, Ben Lam, Malakai Fekitoa, Hadleigh Parkes, David Thomas, Gareth Anscombe, Alby Mathewson, Joe Edwards, Daniel Braid (c), Steven Luatua, Ali Williams, Liaki Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Tom McCartney, Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Nathan Vella, Siosiua Halanukonuka, Andrew Van der Heijden, Sean Polwart, Scott Patterson, Simon Hickey, Lolagi Visinia
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