Six All Blacks and nine Wellington debutants have been named in the Wellington Lions squad for the 2012 ITM Cup campaign.
Led by Jeremy Thrush, the Lions are set to begin their campaign this Friday in their season opener against the Manawatu Turbos in Palmerston North.
Lua Lokotui and Solomona Sakalia from Marist St Pats, Kayne Hammington from Upper Hutt, and Genesis Mamea from Wainuiomata have all won selection following strong club rugby seasons.
Also included are two members of this year's New Zealand Under 20's campaign, Matt Proctor and Ope Peleseuma, while Ardie Savea, younger brother of Julian, has forced his way in after his first year on the International Sevens circuit for New Zealand.
Lions Head Coach Chris Boyd, while announcing his squad today, reinforced the local culture within the side.
"Wellington is a province that produces enough talent that we are able to develop our own and this team is all about Wellingtonians playing for Wellington.
"All but a few of our squad were born and bred in the capital and they take immense pride in representing their town."
Wellington Rugby CEO James Te Puni added, "Interest in rugby in Wellington is high at present."
"There has been significant growth this season, with more people playing the game in Wellington this year than any other year since 2002.
"That growth and interest only bids well for an exciting ITM Cup
season and the development of more Wellington rugby players for the
Wellington Lions 2012 ITM Cup squad
Forwards: Dane Coles, Arden David-Perrot, Ross Filipo, Scott Fuglistaller, Reggie Goodes, Whetu Henry, Serge Lilo, Lua Lokotui, Genesis Mamea, Motu Matu'u, Mark Reddish, Solomona Sakalia, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Victor Vito.
Backs: Tim Bateman, Hosea Gear, Kayne Hammington, Scott Fuglistaller, Cory Jane, Alapati Leiua, Charlie Ngatai, Ma'a Nonu, Ope Peleseuma, TJ Perenara, Matt Proctor, Julian Savea, Conrad Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Shaun Treeby, Frae Wilson, Jason Woodward.