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Hurricanes inject some front-row firepower for Fijian Drua clash

By Tom Vinicombe
Owen Franks, Dane Coles and Wyatt Crockett. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The Hurricanes are set to welcome two All Blacks hookers back into the fold this weekend while former New Zealand representative Owen Franks is also set to make an appearance in Wellington.

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Both Asafo Aumua and Dane Coles have been included in the Hurricanes’ match-day 23 to take on the Fijian Drua in Wellington this Saturday, with Aumua making a return following a three-week suspension and Coles set for his first match of the season.

Former All Black prop Franks, meanwhile, has been bracketed on the bench after spending the early stages of the year sidelined following a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered late last year.

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The three test stars will add some much-needed experience to a Hurricanes side that has looked out of sorts in their opening two matches against Australian opposition, with coach Jason Holland making eight personnel changes to the run-on side following last weekend’s loss to the Brumbies in Canberra.

Aumua will slot back into the starting hooker role and will be joined by Xavier Numia and Tyrel Lomax.

In the second row, Isaia Walker-Leawere returns to the starting side in place of James Blackwell and will partner youngster Justin Sangster.

Ardie Savea is on an All Blacks rest week and will sit out Saturday’s match with the Drua. His spot at the back of the scrum has been filled by uncapped Manawatu loosie Tyler Laubscher. The Hurricanes will run with tandem openside flankers this weekend with both Blake Gibson and Du’Plessis Kirifi named. Kirifi will be making his first appearance since the Hurricanes took on the Crusaders in early April.

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TJ Perenara will partner 20-year-old Aidan Morgan in the halves this weekend with Jackson Garden-Bachop dropping to the bench.

In the midfield, Billy Proctor takes over from Peter Umaga-Jensen – who misses out on the 23 altogether – and will work alongside Bailyn Sullivan.

Like captain Savea, Jordie Barrett also gets a break this weekend, which sees Josh Moorby take over at fullback for the third time this season. Salesi Rayasi and Wes Goosen will wear the No 11 and No 14 jerseys respectively.

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In the reserves, Coles and Franks (bracketed with Pasilio Tosi) are joined by Tevita Mafileo, Caleb Delany and TK Howden to cover the forwards. Cam Roigard, Garden-Bachop and one of the stars of last year’s New Zealand Under 20s side, Riley Higgins, will provide impact in the backs.

The Drua proved a handful for the Highlanders in Fiji last weekend, holding onto a lead for the first three-quarters of the match before the Highlanders took control in Suva. After going down early against the Reds and falling to a 42-25 defeat at the hands of the Brumbies last weekend, the Hurricanes will be striving for a complete performance in their first home game in almost a month.

That might be a tough ask without Savea and Barrett on board, but bringing in three All Blacks front-rowers should at least ensure there’s some good experience in the team for Sunday afternoon’s showdown.

This weekend’s hit-out between the Hurricanes and Drua is set to kick off at 3:35pm NZT from Sky Stadium in Wellington.

Hurricanes: Josh Moorby, Wes Goosen, Bailyn Sullivan, Billy Proctor, Salesi Rayasi, Aidan Morgan, TJ Perenara, Tyler Laubscher, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Blake Gibson, Justin Sangster, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Tyrel Lomax, Asafo Aumua, Xavier Numia. Reserves: Dane Coles, Tevita Mafileo, Owen Franks, Caleb Delany, TK Howden, Cam Roigard, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Riley Higgins.

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