Dane Coles and Ruben Love handed starts for Hurricanes
The Hurricanes have made seven personnel changes to their line-up for their upcoming clash with the Rebels, including handing starting berths to Dane Coles and Ruben Love.
Coles missed the opening half of the season, only making his first appearance for the Hurricanes in their sizeable 67-5 win over the Fijian Drua earlier this month. After getting 25 minutes off the bench against the Drua, Coles was brought on shortly before halftime last weekend to help shore up the scrum against a destructive Waratahs pack and Saturday’s match now sees the 35-year-old earn his first start of the season in the No 2 jersey.
Love, meanwhile, shared flyhalf duties early in the season with Jackson Garden-Bachop and Aidan Morgan while also getting runs at fullback but a groin injury suffered in early April has kept the young utility back on the sidelines for the past five rounds of action. It’s in the No 15 jersey that Love will make his return this week, with 20-year-old Aidan Morgan holding his spot at first five-eighth.
James Blackwell holds his spot in the No 4 jersey and will be joined by Isaia Walker-Leawere, who takes over from the young Justin Sangster.
All Black Ardie Savea gets a rest this week which means TK Howden shifts from the blindside flank to the back of the scrum. Blake Gibson will fill the No 6 jersey with Du’Plessis Kirifi retained at openside flanker.
TJ Perenara returns to the line-up after a week off and will combine with Morgan in the halves. Jordie Barrett gets another shot at second five but will partner Billy Proctor, with last week’s No 13 Bailyn Sullivan omitted from the team.
Salesi Rayasi and Julian Savea hold their spots on the wings while Love takes over from Josh Moorby.
In the reserves, Aumua is joined by the returning Pouri Rakete-Stones and elder statesman Owen Franks as front row cover. Scott Scrafton makes a first appearance on the comeback from injury after last featuring at the beginning of April while Caleb Delany rounds out the forwards. Jamie Booth, Jackson Garden-Bachop and Wes Goosen round out the side.
The Hurricanes currently sit fifth on the overall ladder – three points behind the fourth-placed Chiefs. Two wins from their final two matches might be enough to jump the Hurricanes up a spot into a home quarter-final berth if the Chiefs fall at the last hurdle but forwards coach Chris Gibbes say the team are simply focussing on this weekend.
“[We’re going] game by game,” he said earlier this week. “We’re not getting ahead of ourselves at all.
“We just want to make sure we put a performance in at Sky Stadium this weekend against the Rebels. It’s potentially our last home game and we want to make sure we go out with a real bang here.”
The Rebels, meanwhile, need two wins from their last two games to give them any chance of earning a spot in the knockout stages of the competition and came within a whisker of knocking off the Chiefs last weekend. Gibbes says the Hurricanes will try not to fall into the same trap as the Chiefs.
“I think they’re pretty physical, pretty direct,” Gibbes said of the Rebels. “They play pretty hard off 9 and they’ve got a big carry, clean game. Physically, they like to get in and impose themselves on you.
“I think the key thing for us is that if you’re inaccurate against teams like the Rebels and you let them have possession for long periods of time, they will hurt you. They’ve got some massive guys there and they’re utilising them from a tactical perspective pretty well. We’ve got to be able to stop that and it starts up front. I know I’m a forwards coach and we always say that stuff but that’s honestly where it is. If we can get parity and make sure our set-piece is really firing and we can get forward on defence, we’ll be able to put the pressure on them that we want to do.
“As you saw on the weekend against the Chiefs, if you allow them to play and you allow them to play their game, they can hurt you. We’ve just got to be smart and accurate and nail our moments.”
Hurricanes team to face the Rebels:
1. Tevita Mafileo
2. Dane Coles
3. Tyrel Lomax
4. James Blackwell
5. Isaia Walker-Leawere
6. Blake Gibson
7. Du’Plessis Kirifi
8. TK Howden
9. TJ Perenara (c)
10. Aidan Morgan
11. Salesi Rayasi
12. Jordie Barrett
13. Billy Proctor
14. Julian Savea
15. Ruben Love
16. Asafo Aumua
17. Pouri Rakete-Stones
18. Owen Franks
19. Scott Scrafton
20. Caleb Delany
21. Jamie Booth
22. Jackson Garden-Bachop
23. Wes Goosen
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