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Ex-Wallaby’s bold call: Drua could hand Hurricanes ‘first loss of the year’

By Finn Morton
Jordie Barrett of the Hurricanes. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Former Wallaby Morgan Turinui has tipped the Fijian Drua to hand the ladder-leading Hurricanes their “first loss of the year” in a blockbuster Super Rugby Pacific clash in Suva on Friday.

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The Hurricanes have emerged as the team to beat with the table-toppers currently boasting a flawless 7-0 record which has included wins over the Blues, Melbourne Rebels and Chiefs.

Coach Clark Laidlaw hasn’t been afraid to test the squad’s depth this season, having made 14 changes to the First XV to play the Rebels and another 12 before facing the Highlanders.

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But not everyone is convinced. Former All Blacks halfback Justin Marshall recently questioned whether the unbeaten Hurricanes are indeed the favourites to take out the title this season.

Marshall said the Hurricanes would need to go over to Fiji this week and win “as a start.” It’s a menacing challenge and not everyone believes the men from New Zealand’s capital will win.

“Interesting too when you look at their team… the experience off the bench,” Morgan Turinui said on Stan Sports’ The Call Up.

“I expected a big full 80 and a strong finish over there in Suva this week.

“This could be the first loss of the year for the Canes.”

The Hurricanes have challenged some of their squad members to go the job at ANZ Stadium this week with coach Laidlaw once again making a stunning amount of changes to the starting side.

Head-to-Head

Last 3 Meetings

Wins
1
Draws
0
Wins
2
Average Points scored
16
43
First try wins
100%
Home team wins
67%

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Coach Laidlaw has made 10 changes to the starting side, including a fresh face at first five with Aidan Morgan replacing Brett Cameron in a still-supremely talented backline.

Wing Salesi Rayasi comes onto the left edge with Kini Naholo shifting to the right, while Josh Moorby shifts to fullback with Ruben Love set to provide impact off the bench.

This is a Hurricanes team that looks different but the core of the team remains the same. It’ll be a good test for the table-toppers and one that former All Black Mils Muliaina thinks they can do the job.

“You would be forgiven to say you take a weakened side over there and you could be bitten. We’ve seen that already a number of times,” Muliaina explained.

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“But I don’t see that with this Hurricanes side.

“The pack up front, especially the front row, they’ve gone through a lot of work in terms of Tyrel Lomax and Asafo Aumua… the fact they get a little bit of a rest.

“Flanders and Du’Plessis Kirifi, I mean… how much competition do those guys need in this department?

“Of course, Aidan Morgan – he’s been there or thereabouts. Probably a chance also for Clark Laidlaw to be able to give him some game time.

“Salesi Rayasi, we all know what he’s capable of.

“I sense, even last week after that game against the Chiefs, they’ve sort of blocked this out and almost got the feeling that these players already knew they were going to go to Suva and they’re going to be starting.

“The preparation for team has probably already started.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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