Departing star Ngani Laumape returns as Hurricanes make raft of changes for Rebels clash
Laumape was left out of the Hurricanes side that thumped the Waratahs 64-48 in Sydney last week, just days after it was announced that he will be leaving New Zealand to join Top 14 club Stade Francais in July.
After Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland confirmed his star man’s imminent move to France had nothing to do with his omission, the 28-year-old has since been recalled as one of 10 personnel changes to face off against the Rebels, who were beaten 50-3 by the Blues in Melbourne last Saturday.
Leger comes into the side to replace the injured Ruben Love, who was taken from the field in a stretcher in the opening stages of last week’s win over the Waratahs due to a heavy head knock.
The talented 20-year-old has since been cleared of any serious damage, but he will stay on the sidelines for this week’s match at Sky Stadium.
Leger, who filled the first-five role in Love’s absence at the Sydney Cricket Ground, is one half of a new-look halves duo that features fellow Counties Manukau representative Jonathan Taumateine, who replaces Luke Campbell at halfback.
The only other change in the backline comes on the left wing, where Wes Goosen comes into the side in place of the athletic Salesi Rayasi to create a back three comprised of Jordie Barrett and Julian Savea.
Scott Scrafton, meanwhile, comes into the second row, taking the place of lock Isaia Walker-Leawere in the only other alteration to the starting XV.
In the reserves, ex-Blues wing Lolagi Visinia has been called into the side for a potential debut, joining Fidow, halfback Cam Roigard, Maori All Blacks prop Pouri Rakete-Stones and one-test All Blacks loose forward Gareth Evans as the newbies on the bench.
Holland said the vast number of changes comes as the coaching staff looks to maximise the potential throughout the entire playing squad.
“At the end of Super Rugby Aotearoa we made it clear to the squad that there will be opportunities for players to show what they can do and we are determined to create plenty of competition for positions as we work through the coming weeks,” he said.
“That’s created some real excitement in our squad and that’s been matched by the opportunity to be back playing in front of our fans.”
Kick-off for Friday’s match is scheduled for 7:05pm [NZT].
Hurricanes side to face the Melbourne Rebels
1. Xavier Numia
2. Dane Coles (c)
3. Tyrel Lomax
4. James Blackwell
5. Scott Scrafton
6. Reed Prinsep
7. Du’Plessis Kirifi
8. Devan Flanders
9. Jonathan Taumateine
10. Orbyn Leger
11. Wes Goosen
12. Ngani Lamuape
13. Billy Proctor
14. Julian Savea
15. Jordie Barrett
16. Asafo Aumua
17. Pouri Rakete-Stones
18. Alex Fidow
19. Liam Mitchell
20. Braydon Iose
21. Gareth Evans
22. Cam Roigard
23. Lolagi Visinia
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