The Lions will be hoping to bounce back after suffering a 34 – 18 loss to Hawke’s Bay a week ago, which also cost them a chance at the Ranfurly Shield.
Head coach, Leo Crowley, says whilst the team was disappointed at that result, this week poses new challenges and so they have had to bury the hatchet and move on.
“The mindset this week is to beat Manawatu and remain in the premiership. It can be nothing else. This competition is so tight you can be near the top one week and bottom the next,” he said.
Among Crowley’s changes, Caleb Delany returns from injury to take up a starting position as lock. But it’s further back that’s seen the biggest re-jig.
Julian Savea moves into second-five, meaning Pepesana Patafilo finds himself back on the wing.
Savea has scored two tries in seven games for the Lions in his return season for the side. Although he hasn’t found the try line often, he leads the side in tackle busts with 11 and sits third in defenders beaten with seven.
After making his comeback to New Zealand Rugby through club rugby as a midfielder, he now has the chance to push further ahead with his transition to 12 before next year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa season with the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes announced earlier this year they had re-signed the older Savea brother for next year after he had joined the side as a late squad replacement for Ben Lam.
Another Hurricane Billy Proctor comes forward to the midfield to partner Savea and Trent Renata has been named as starting fullback.