Rugby: Hammett names powerful Hurricanes side

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has named a forward pack laced with experience for his side's season-opening Super Rugby game against the Blues at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday night.

All Blacks prop Ben Franks will make his debut for the franchise in the No 1 jersey, while Ben May will anchor the scrum at tighthead with Dane Coles at hooker.

Veteran locks Jason Eaton and Jeremy Thrush will suit up in the second row, while Victor Vito and Karl Lowe will be joined by Brad Shields in a physical loose trio.

Hammett's hand was slightly forced at openside flanker following the four-week suspension Ardie Savea was slapped with this week, while Jack Lam is still recovering from a knee injury.

Lowe has been a serviceable campaigner for the side during the past few seasons though and will provide some steel in the contact area.

All Blacks pivot Beauden Barrett will again direct traffic in the backs and exciting young halfback TJ Perenara has recovered from a horror ankle injury suffered last year to take up his starting position.

Alapati Leiua has been given the vacant berth on the right wing, which opened up after Cory Jane copped a season-ending knee injury three weeks ago.

Conrad Smith will again captain the side from centre.

On the bench, Ash Dixon the back-up hooker, utility back James Marshall and midfielder Reynold Lee-Lo could all make their debut for the side if they get on the paddock.

Not considered for selection this week due to injury includes Samisoni Fisilau (hamstring), Lam (knee), Motu Matu'u (pectoral), Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (concussion), Matt Proctor (concussion) and Eric Sione (shoulder).

Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (captain), Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Brad Shields, Karl Lowe, Victor Vito, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Ben May, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Reggie Goodes, Mark Reddish, Faifili Levave, Chris Smylie, James Marshall, Reynold Lee-Lo


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