Ma’a Nonu is the only one of Wellington’s five All Blacks to have been released for Wednesday’s clash with the British & Irish Lions at the Cake Tin.
Wellington coach John Plumtree was unable to call on Conrad Smith, Rodney So’oialo, Jerry Collins and captain Tana Umaga but he has included two men who know just what it takes to beat the Lions.
Scrum-half Piri Weepu, a capped All Black on last year’s autumn tour, and lock Ross Filipo were members of the New Zealand Maori side which pulled off a stunning 19-13 victory over the Lions on Saturday.
Nonu, who was included in the 26-man New Zealand squad for the Lions series on Sunday, spent the Super 12 out on the wing but is happy to get a crack at outside centre, where he will be in direct opposition to Brian O’Driscoll.
"There are a lot of players missing but there’s some up and coming players staking a claim to be in our NPC side too. It’s a good chance for me at centre," said Nonu.
"I’m happy to get first go at them for my province and I’ll be giving it my all. It’s the first game for the boys and it’ll be a big challenge."
Nonu has spoken to both Weepu and Filipo about the Maori victory on Saturday and he does not read too much into it.
Sir Clive Woodward has named a near Test-strength side, featuring Jonny Wilkinson at fly-half, O’Driscoll and Gavin Henson in the centres, while Jason Robinson, Gareth Thomas and Neil Back make their first starts of the tour.
"The Maori win has given us confidence but they’re putting out a big team against us," said Nonu.
"They’ve been impressive and we haven’t see everything they’ve got yet."
The Wellington side will be captained by former All Black prop Joe McDonnell and features lightning wingers Lome Fa’atau, the Samoan World Cup star, and New Zealand Sevens international Roy Kinikinilau.
Wellington side to play the British & Irish Lions on Wednesday is: S Paku; L Fa’atau, M Nonu, T Tu’ipulotu, R Kinikinilau; J Gopperth, P Weepu; J McDonnell (capt), M Schwalger, T Fairbrother, L Andrews, R Filipo, K Ormsby, B Herring, T Waldron.
Replacements: L Mahoney, J Schwalger, K Thompson, J Purdie, R Flutey, T Ellison, C Jane.