Auckland centre Malakai Fekitoa may have started a war of words with Wellington ahead of the NPC Premiership semi-final clash on Saturday night by claiming that the players are better in his team.
The Tongan-born centre has started in every game for Auckland this season and looks to have a big future in New Zealand rugby, but yesterday he was turning his attention to this weekend's big game in the capital and talking up the players in his side.
"If we play to our A-game we'll be fine, because I believe we've got a better side than them, individually and as a team," Fekitoa said.
However, second-five Hadleigh Parkes has a more reasoned view on the game.
When the two sides played each other last month Auckland won 43-30 at Eden Park. But since that week nine game, Wellington have been unbeaten and are looking like a quality side.
Because of the way Wellington have improved, Parkes says they won't take much from that earlier fixture.
"We can't take too much from it," he said.
"We were at home and we've played well at home, while we haven't been playing our best footy away.
"They have improved a lot since then and we may have levelled off a bit, so it's going to be a big game down there.
"Hopefully it's fine and both teams will want to play some attacking footy, we want to be able to score some good tries."
The regular season finished with Auckland, Canterbury and Wellington all having eight wins and two losses, but Auckland lost out on a home semifinal because they only picked up five bonus points while the other two teams had seven.
Any realistic chance Auckland had of taking a semi to Eden Park ended when they failed to secure a four-try bonus points in an ordinary performance against Otago last weekend.
"We didn't start too well and for me personally I didn't have too great a game," reflected Parkes.
"We had a goal at the start of the year to make the semifinals and we're there with that, now we want to go on to the final and beat Wellington on Saturday."
A call will be made this morning about whether Ali Williams will play for Auckland. The All Blacks lock has twinged a disc in his lower back and Auckland coach Wayne Pivac says the chances of him coming right in time are slim.
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.
WELLINGTON: Charlie Ngatai, Matt Proctor, Alapati Leiua, Shaun Treeby, Jason Woodward, Tim Bateman, Frae Wilson; Ardie Savea, Scott Fugistaller, Ross Filipo, Mark Reddish, Jeremy Thrush (c), Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Reggie Goodies. Reserves: Motu Matu'u, Eric Sione, Lua Lokotui, Genesis Mamea, Kayne Hammington, Lima Sopoaga, Ambrose Curtis.
- © Fairfax NZ News