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Hulking prop the pick of the Hurricanes' new signings after major departures

By Tom Vinicombe

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Although the Hurricanes have managed to recruit some experienced Super Rugby players for the 2022 season, it’s the raft of departures that stands out from their latest squad reveal.

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The likes of Ngani Laumape, Vince Aso, Vaea Fifita and Gareth Evans have all left Wellington, with the former three heading overseas and one-time All Black Evans joining his brother down south at the Highlanders. Isaia Walker-Leawere, meanwhile, will miss the season through injury while new recruit Owen Franks is in a similar boat.

In their places come the likes of Teihorangi Walden and Dominic Bird, as well as a slew of young players who performed admirably for their provinces during this year’s NPC competition – players who coach Jason Holland will need to start getting the best out of early in the season to compensate for the experience that’s been shed between seasons.

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How Ian Foster reacted to the All Blacks’ latest loss.
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How Ian Foster reacted to the All Blacks’ latest loss.

Altogether, there are seven potential debutants in the side – the most of any New Zealand franchise – while hooker James O’Reilly and halfback Cam Roigard have also picked up full-time contracts for the first time after previously representing the side as injury cover.

In the forwards, the Hurricanes have picked up prop Pasilio Tosi, lock Justin Sangster and loose forwards Tyler Laubscher, Caleb Delany and TK Howden.

While O’Reilly boasts plenty of provincial experience, the rest of the sextet are still in the formative years of their professional careers. Bay of Plenty front-rower Tosi is a particularly interesting prospect, with the hulking 23-year-old especially destructive with the ball in hand.

Still, it’s in the scrum where the Hurricanes will be looking to get the most out of Tosi, given the side hardly lacks for wrecking-ball front-rowers in the open.

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With the likes of Ardie Savea, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Devan Flanders, Brayden Iose and Reed Prinsep retained from 2021, and Blues flanker Blake Gibson joining the Hurricanes’ cause, the new additions to the loosies loom as long-term prospects for their new squad, with Delany and Howden earning national selection in the Unders 20s over the past two seasons.

Meanwhile, the backs have been bolstered by Auckland-schooled pivot Aidan Morgan and Southland outside back Josh Moorby.

Morgan is already well entrenched in the Hurricanes’ systems having spent ample time with the squad as injury cover throughout 2021 without ever taking the field.

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As is always the case, the Hurricanes’ success will hinge on their forwards’ ability to deliver front-foot ball and their playmakers to help unleash their ever-dangerous backs and the returns of TJ Perenara (Japan), Jamie Booth and Jackson Garden-Bachop (both injury) should help the side get their attack functioning in 2021.

The additions of Walden and former Chiefs player Bailyn Sullivan will help bolster an already strong midfield unit but neither player can add the impact that Laumape added in the No 12 jersey.

Three Hurricanes players from the current season have also made the shift to Moana Pasifika for 2022, halfback Jonathan Taumateine, midfielder Danny Toala and outside back Lolagi Visinia.

While the recruitment of Dominic Bird and the return of TJ Perenara bolster two positional areas that struggled this season for the Hurricanes, it’s hard to shake the impression that the side that finished 5th in this year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa competition has suffered a net loss in the off-season – but only time will tell.

2022 Hurricanes squad:

Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, James O’Reilly

Props: Tevita Mafileo, Alex Fidow, Xavier Numia, Tyrel Lomax, Pasilio Tosi, Pouri Rakete-Stones

Locks: James Blackwell, Dom Bird, Scott Scrafton, Justin Sangster

Loose forwards: Brayden Iose, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep, Blake Gibson, Ardie Savea, Tyler Laubscher, Devan Flanders, Caleb Delany, TK Howden

Halfbacks: Jamie Booth, TJ Perenara, Cam Roigard

First fives: Aidan Morgan, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Ruben Love

Midfield: Teihorangi Walden, Billy Proctor, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Bailyn Sullivan

Outside backs: Julian Savea, Jordie Barrett, Pepesana Patafilo, Salesi Rayasi, Wes Goosen, Josh Moorby

Unavailable due to injury: Owen Franks, Isaia Walker-Leawere

2022 Hurricanes transfers:

In: Bird (France), Gibson (Blues), Walden (Taranaki), Sullivan (Chiefs), Tosi (Bay of Plenty), Sangster (Bay of Plenty), Laubscher (Manawatu), Morgan (Wellington), Roigard (Counties-Manukau), Moorby (Southland), Delaney (Wellington), Howden (Manawatu), Franks (England)

Out: Ngani Laumape (France), Vince Aso (Japan), Vaea Fifita (England), Ricky Riccitelli (Blues), Gareth Evans (Highlanders), Simon Hickey (Crusaders), Lolagi Visinia (Moana Pasifika), Jonathan Taumateine (Moana Pasifika), Orbyn Leger (Japan), Danny Toala (Moana Pasifika), Luke Campbell (France), Liam Mitchell (Italy), Kane Leaupepe (retired), Fraser Armstrong (retired)

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