The Hurricanes have revealed star utility back Jordie Barrett will not play at first-five this week despite the franchise’s shortage in the position.
Speaking to media, Hurricanes defence coach Cory Jane said it would be “unfair” to thrust Barrett into the playmaking role to replace injured pair Jackson Garden-Bachop and Simon Hickey.
The latter has been ruled out for the season after he ruptured his ACL, while the former is in doubt to play against the Chiefs in Wellington this weekend due to an achilles niggle.
Both players are the only bona fide first-fives in the Hurricanes squad, leaving the franchise short on options to fill the No 10 jersey on Saturday.
Barrett, who can cover every backline position bar halfback, filled the first-five role during the second half of his side’s defeat to the Crusaders a fortnight ago and started at No 10 for the All Blacks in their 2019 World Cup clash against Namibia.
However, Jane ruled the 24-year-old of the first-five equation.
“It wouldn’t be fair on him if we actually put him into first-five, last year he was the best fullback running around and he’s done some good stuff for us already this year,” Jane said.
“To put him there just because we feel like we need to would probably be unfair on him, I like him better at fullback and we’ll just have to make do with the options we’ve got.”
Instead, the Hurricanes will rely on some of their younger, less experienced players to step up in the absence of Garden-Bachop and Hickey.
Former Blues and Chiefs five-eighth Orbyn Leger stands as the frontrunner to start as the side’s pivot due to his previous Super Rugby experience.
The 24-year-old, a former New Zealand and Samoa U20 representative who featured for the Hurricanes during pre-season and has played for the franchise’s reserve side – the Hunters – in recent weeks, has competition for the pivot role, though.
Hurricanes U20 first-five Aidan Morgan could also in contention for selection, as could his 2019 New Zealand Schools teammate Ruben Love.
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Morgan and Love, both of whom are uncapped at Super Rugby level, shared the fullback role for the Hurricanes Hunters in their matches against the Hurricanes Regional XV and Crusaders Knights over the past few weeks.
Leger, meanwhile, started at first-five and was vice-captain in both of those matches, but Jane refused to be drawn into which players were in the running to don the No 10 jersey for the senior side this weekend.
“We’ve got a couple of young guys coming in they’re our secret weapons, I can’t let that out of the bag at the moment.”
In other injury news, All Blacks hookers Asafo Aumua (shoulder) and Dane Coles (calf) are both expected to be available for the Chiefs match after working through their respective injuries.
“I think Colesy is just itching at the bit to get out there, he ran really well with us in training last week,” Jane said.
“Asafo is a tough lad too. By the sounds of it everything is sweet with him he’s just a bit sore so ideally he’s back.”
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