Utility back Stacey Ili's replacing of injured centre Sam McNicol is the only change to the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team's starting XV for tomorrow night's match against the Wellington Lions at Napier's McLean Park.
Magpies head coach Mark Ozich said McNicol's ankle sprain collected in Sunday's win against the Manawatu Turbos is likely to keep him on the sideline for four to six weeks, if not sooner.
"While the injury isn't good news for Sam it isn't as serious as first thought. It's a high ankle sprain," Ozich said.
Ili, 28, replaced McNicol, who was playing his first first-class game since 2017 after recovering from a wrist injury and concussion issues, in Sunday's 31-13 victory. Ili played 10 first- class games for the Magpies last year, nine at centre and one at first five-eighth, all in the starting XV.
Hastings Rugby and Sports midfield back Timo Vaiusu replaces Ili on the subs bench and if he takes the field it will be his first-class debut. The only other change to the Magpies subs bench used in the win against the Turbos sees Maori All Black and Hurricanes prop Ben May replace 2017 world champion Baby Black Tim Farrell.
May, 36, this week signed up for his ninth season with the Hurricanes. A former Chiefs and Crusaders player, May has played 124 Super Rugby matches, 89 of them for the Hurricanes.
"It's amazing at his age that he still has the drive to play at Super level and can still get the recognition. That's a testament to how well he has looked after himself," Ozich said.
Ozich is anticipating an explosive effort from the Lions in the wake of their 45-8 loss to the Tasman Mako in Blenheim on Saturday.
"The Lions will come out physical and explosive and wanting to prove a point after not performing as well as they would have liked. We have got to absorb that."
Ozich agreed it was crucial his forward pack fires as well as it did against the Turbos to deny the classy Wellington backline as much possession as possible.
Exciting young hooker Asafo Aumua will return to the Wellington Lions side for the Mitre 10 Cup crossover clash. Aumua missed the first round match against Tasman but returns for what will be his 32nd Lions cap since he made his debut in 2016, also in Napier.
The 22-year-old, who has scored 17 tries for the Lions, was released from the All Blacks after initialy being included in their Rugby Championship squad. He is one of four changes Lions head coach and former Magpies lock Chris Gibbes has made to the starting XV from the one that faced Tasman.
Experienced international lock Josh Furno will make his second appearance after he made his debut off the bench in Blenheim. Hurricanes utility back Vince Aso has also been promoted from the bench and will start at centre while Pepesana Patafilo will play his first game for the Lions on the left wing in place of Ben Lam who is unavailable due to illness.
There is the potential for a further debut with Oriental-Rongotai loose forward Luke Tau'alupe named on the bench which features the inclusion of Highlanders midfielder Thomas Umaga-Jensen.
Gibbes was naturally disappointed with the performance of the squad against Tasman and the challenge was now in front of them against a quality Hawke's Bay side.
"We have been honest around what happened and have worked really hard to improve a lot of areas of our game that was not acceptable (we didn't deliver in) against Tasman," he said.
"Hawkes Bay will be a challenge at home but the team are looking forward to getting back out on the field and putting out a performance that we can be proud of."
Teams for the 7.45pm match:
Hawke's Bay Magpies: Caleb Makene, Ollie Sapsford, Stacey Ili, Danny Toala, Mason Emerson, Lincoln McClutchhie, Folau Fakatava, Gareth Evans (vice captain), Brendon O'Connor (vice captain), Devan Flanders, Tom Parsons, Geoff Cridge, Joel Hintz, Ash Dixon (captain), Pouri Rakete-Stones. Substitutes: Forwards, Kianu Kereru-Symes, Ben May, Namatahi Waa, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Josh Kaifa. Backs, Zac Donaldson, Timo Vaiusu, Neria Fomai.
Wellington Lions: Billy Protor, Wes Goosen, Vince Aso, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Pepesana Patafilo, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Mateki Kafatolu, James Blackwell, Josh Furno, Alex Fidow, Asafo Aumua, Xavier Numia. Substitutes: Forwards, James O'Reilly, Morgan Poi, Sef Fa'agase, Galu Taufale, Luke Tau'alupe. Backs, Connor Collins, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Trent Renata.