There are just six new faces in new head coach John Plumtree’s 38-man squad, with dynamic Auckland wing Salesi Rayasi, exciting Wellington midfielder Billy Proctor, former Highlanders first five-eighth Fletcher Smith, two-time Super Rugby champion Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, promising Wellington openside flanker Du’Plessis Kirifi and athletic Manawatu utility forward Liam Mitchell joining the club.
As well as the players new to the squad, former Hurricanes utility back James Marshall returns to New Zealand rugby after playing in the United Kingdom and Japan while Bay of Plenty halfback Richard Judd is named in the squad after he made his debut in 2018 when he was called in as injury cover.
There are 12 players named in the squad who were part of the All Blacks 2018 campaign while four players – Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Jeff To’omaga-Allen and Dane Coles – are centurions of the Hurricanes club.
Plumtree was excited about the squad the coaching group had assembled.
“A lot of the boys have been together for a long period of time but we also have some exciting youngsters that we have brought in,” he said.
“We’ve brought some guys in for development but we’ve got others who we think are good to go.”
Hurricanes captain Dane Coles believed the squad had the depth to deal with the demands of the competition.
“We want our players to have a real world class work ethic, we think that’s pretty important and I think our leadership group can really drive that. We’re really keen to welcome in some new guys and we will be looking forward to getting to know them.”
Plumtree said the season’s goal was to make the Super Rugby finals as they had done in the previous four years he had been an assistant coach.
“We know how important it is to get a home quarter-final and semi-final in terms of winning this competition but of course there is a lot of work to do before you get there. It’s a really tough competition, there is no June break this year so we are going to have to play consistently well over a longer period of time.”
“We are going to have to use the squad and make sure everyone is fresh and keen and energised for every week. Our standards are very high and our expectations internally are high too. But we want to impress our fans and we want to keep growing the history of this jersey.”
The squad, minus the All Blacks and Maori All Blacks, will assemble on November 29.
Note: Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wellington) is not available due to injury.
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At 1.93m and 105kg, Rayasi is a powerful wing who made a real impact for Auckland in the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup. A former New Zealand Sevens representative, the Wellington-born player took a break from rugby for a short period as he pursued a career in basketball. However, the son of former Fiji international Filipe Rayasi, Salesi was convinced to return to the sport.
The younger brother of Hurricanes midfielder Matt Proctor, Billy joins the Hurricanes after some really impressive form for the Wellington Lions in the Mitre 10 that saw him become the first choice No 12 by season’s end. A product of St Patrick’s College in Wellington, Billy is a former New Zealand Secondary Schools representative and is also part of the New Zealand Under-20 squad.
Another Hurricanes player to come out of New Plymouth’s Francis Douglas Memorial College, Kirifi impressed the club’s coaching staff when he was called in as injury cover in 2018 following an impressive debut season for Wellington in the Mitre 10 Cup the previous year. He continued that good form, helping the Lions to the Premiership semi-final. A former age-group representative for Taranaki and Waikato, Du’Plessis is named after former Springbok captain Morne Du’Plessis.
Another player who had time with the Hurricanes squad in 2018, Mitchell can play equally well at blindside flanker or lock. Having played a season of club rugby in Spain in 2017, Mitchell returned to New Zealand and made his debut for Manawatu. His father Alistair Mitchell also played for Manawatu.
Bedwell-Curtis has spent the last two seasons at the defending Super Rugby champion Crusaders club. He missed the Mitre 10 Cup after taking up a short-term contract in Japan and is due back in New Zealand in January. A hard, uncompromising loose forward, Bedwell-Curtis, who was schooled at New Plymouth Boys’ High School, is a former New Zealand Under-20 and Maori All Black representative.
The former Highlanders playmaker heads north as one of three five five options the Hurricanes will have in 2019. A young player who has built up a great deal of experience in recent years, Smith is a really accurate goal kicker and passer of the ball as well as being a mature playmaker. He helped Waikato gain promotion to the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership after their Championship win over Otago.
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