The Hurricanes will finally welcome back All Blacks sensation Ardie Savea from a lengthy injury spell on Sunday afternoon when they face the Blues at Eden Park in their Super Rugby Aotearoa opener.

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Savea underwent surgery late last year to mend a knee injury sustained in the All Blacks’ World Cup semi-final defeat to England, and didn’t play at all in Super Rugby in its original format earlier this year.

However, after seven months out of action, the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee will return for the Hurricanes after being named on their bench’s for this weekend’s clash in Auckland.

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Super Rugby Aotearoa | Chiefs prep for Highlanders

“Ardie has progressed well and it’s awesome to see him excited about getting back out there,” Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland said.

The naming of Savea will be savoured by the Hurricanes, who will be without key fullback Jordie Barrett after he succumbed to a shoulder injury earlier in the week.

It means the 23-year-old won’t square off against older brother Beauden in what will be his first appearance for the Blues since his high-profile transfer from the Hurricanes last year.

Instead, Chase Tiatia has been named in the No. 15 jersey, whose services in the outside backs will be aided by pace and power through the presence of Ben Lam and Wes Goosen on the wings.

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Inside of them will be Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso, who will team up to create a formidable midfield duo, while Jackson Garden-Bachop will take the reins at first-five in place of Fletcher Smith.

TJ Perenara will start at halfback, and he’ll be joined in the starting lineup by fellow co-captain Dane Coles, who will don the No. 2 jersey.

Fraser Armstrong and one-cap All Blacks prop Tyrel Lomax line up on either side of him in the front row, with James Blackwell and Scott Scrafton rounding out the tight five.

With Savea to come off the bench, promising youngster Du’Plessis Kirifi will again start in the No. 7 jersey, where he’ll be supported by Reed Prinsep and Gareth Evans in the loose forwards.

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In the reserves, Asafo Aumua and Vaea Fifita add to the All Blacks contingent on the pine, while only two backs – Jamie Booth and Billy Proctor – have been named to accomodate Tevita Mafielo, Alex Fidow and Isaia Walker-Leawere.

Lack of discipline was a significant factor in the Hurricanes’ 24-15 defeat to the Blues in Wellington three months ago, with the hosts copping two yellow cards and a red card, reducing them to just 12 players at one point in the match.

Holland is hopeful that his side can keep their temperament in front of an Auckland crowd that is expected to exceed 37,500 in capacity in two days’ time.

“The team that wins the physical battle and is the most disciplined in the heat of the battle will go a long way to getting a result,” he said.

Kick-off for Sunday’s encounter is scheduled for 3:35pm NZT.

The Hurricanes team to face the Blues in Auckland is:

15) Chase Tiatia
14) Wes Goosen
13) Vince Aso
12) Ngani Laumape
11) Ben Lam
10) Jackson Garden-Bachop
9) TJ Perenara [CC]
8) Gareth Evans
7) Du’Plessis Kirifi
6) Reed Prinsep
5) Scott Scrafton
4) James Blackwell
3) Tyrel Lomax
2) Dane Coles [CC]
1) Fraser Armstrong

Reserves

16) Asafo Aumua
17) Tevita Mafileo
18) Alex Fidow
19) Isaia Walker-Leawere
20) Vaea Fifita
21) Ardie Savea
22) Jamie Booth
23) Billy Proctor

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