Canes’ Big Four reunite in the starting lineup while young pivot gets the driver’s seat in chase for maximum points.
The Hurricanes Big Four reunite in an Ardie Savea-led starting lineup, as they look to quell a physical Brumbies forward pack in pursuit of another bonus point win on Saturday.
Coach Jason Holland made seven changes to his starting lineup from the 43-6 win over the Force in Napier which kept them level-pegging with the Blues on maximum points in the race for a top-two final spot in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.
Captain Savea returns at No 8 after an impressive return from a knee injury off the bench in Napier, Dane Coles is back at hooker for Asafo Aumua (concussion) and Julian Savea returns from a week off to team up with Salesi Rayasi on the wings after the latters double against the Force.
Brad Thorn’s Queensland Reds beat Brumbies after buzzer in SRA final.
At first five-eighth, Ruben Love returns from two weeks out after that sickening early collision in Sydney, taking over the drivers seat from Orbyn Leger.
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Its the first time since the golden point defeat to the Crusaders on April 11 that Ardie Savea and fellow All Blacks Coles, Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape lined up in the same 15. Laumape, in his penultimate regular season match before leaving for France, returns to the scene of his debut in 2016 where he scored a try.
Barrett makes his 12th start from as many matches in 2021, the only Hurricane to run on every time. Flanker Reed Prinsep, last weeks skipper whos played the most minutes along with Barrett, gets the week off as an expectant father, as Devan Flanders shifts to No 6 and Gareth Evans to the bench.
Hurricanes Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea after their 43-6 win over Western Force.
Again it was a tough selection for Holland, with the in-form Wes Goosen edged into the reserves and All Blacks Peter Umaga-Jensen and a fit-again Vaea Fifita missing the 23 as the coach went for forward muscle on a 6-2 bench split.
Weve had that in mind the last three weeks around giving guys opportunity, its created what we wanted it to create but its made it a little bit niggly to pick the team, Holland said of their rest and rotation policy.
Theyre physical [the Brumbies] and theyve got a pretty good No 8 [Henry Stowers] who carries a lot of their ball and gets them over the gain line, and we expect Ards to do the same for us. We need to stop their momentum.
First the Canes have to take the long road to Canberra for the 9.45pm Saturday (NZT) kickoff.
Originally scheduled to fly via Melbourne, the lockdown forced a change of plans at Hurricanes HQ. The coaches and staff flew via Auckland to Sydney on Thursday, with the players joining them after a direct flight from the capital.
First five-eighth Ruben Love is back to start for the Hurricanes after his injury in Sydney.
The squad fly to Canberra on Friday morning, then after the match will bus back to Sydney to catch an early Sunday flight home, with a quick turnaround for the Reds in Wellington next Friday.
Its a small disruption but theres all sorts going on, to make it happen. Everyone just gets on with it, something that [Covid] has taught us, no one really whinges, we just do whatever is thrown at us, Holland said.
Winning the collisions and the battle up front will give the Canes a platform to score three more tries than their winless rivals, also runners-up in Super Rugby AU to the Reds. Holland said bonus points had barely been talked about, for fear of taking their eyes off the main task.
The Hurricanes have won just five of 14 visits to Canberra, with their last victory there the 2017 quarterfinal by 35-16 thanks to two Goosen tries and Barretts 20 points.
AT A GLANCE
Hurricanes to face the Brumbies: Jordie Barrett, Julian Savea, Billy Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Salesi Rayasi, Ruben Love, Luke Campbell, Ardie Savea (captain), DuPlessis Kirifi, Devan Flanders, Scott Scrafton, James Blackwell, Tyrel Lomax, Dane Coles, Xavier Numia. Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Alex Fidow, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Brayden Iose, Gareth Evans, Cam Roigard, Wes Goosen.