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Hurricanes stick with Peter Umaga-Jensen and Bailyn Sullivan combo

By Tom Vinicombe
Peter Umaga-Jensen and Bailyn Sullivan. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

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For just the second time this season, the Hurricanes have retained the same midfield combination for two weeks in a row, naming Peter Umaga-Jensen and Bailyn Sullivan in the No 12 and No 13 jerseys for this weekend’s clash with the Brumbies in Canberra.

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The Umaga-Jensen/Sullivan partnership is one of seven pairings the Hurricanes have employed in the centres this year but after a strong performance in Melbourne against the Reds, coach Jason Holland has stuck with the duo ahead of this weekend’s match.

In fact, there are just four changes to the run-on side following last Saturday’s victory – the equal-fewest made by Holland this year.

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In the forward pack, James O’Reilly takes over from Kianu Kereru-Symes at hooker while lock Isaia Walker-Leawere drops to the bench following two strong performances after a return from injury. Sangster will take Walker-Leawere’s spot in the No 5 jersey while props Pouri Rakete-Stones and Tyrel Lomax, and second-rower James Blackwell all hold onto their spots from the victory in Melbourne.

An injury suffered by Reed Prinsep ahead of last weekend’s match saw TK Howden promoted onto the blindside flank shortly before kick-off and with Prinsep now back in New Zealand, Howden retains the no 6 jersey and will again team up with Blake Gibson and Ardie Savea.

There are two further changes in the backline with Jackson Garden-Bachop taking over starting responsibilities at first five-eighth from youngster Aidan Morgan and Salesi Rayasi getting the nod on the left wing following a minor injury to Wes Goosen.

That leaves TJ Perenara at halfback, Umga-Jensen and Sullivan in the midfield, and Julian Savea and Jordie Barrett rounding out the back three.

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In the reserves, Kereru-Symes, Xavier Numia and Mafielo will cover the front row, Walker-Leawere will back up Blackwell and Sangster, and Caleb Delany will cover the loose forwards. Jamie Booth, Morgan and Billy Proctor round out the 23.

“There’s still many more weeks to go in the competition and we have to manage guys with their minutes and keep guys fresh moving hopefully into the playoff picture,” said assistant coach Tyler Bleyendaal.

“I think settling [on a top line-up] now is not a priority for us and we just pick a combination we think is going to win the game in the weekend.

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“The Brumbies look pretty well-drilled. They’ve got excellent structures in their attack and defence and they’re a big physical team. We’re going to have to be better early on in the game, I think; we’re going to have to match them physically and we’re expecting a pretty tough challenge. We know they’re a very good side and they’ve proved that already this season.”

While the Hurricanes ultimately scored a comfortable 30-17 win over the Reds, they had to come back from 17 points down relatively early in the piece. The Brumbies, meanwhile, were in control from start to finish in their victory over the Highlanders.

Sunday’s match is due to kick off at 4pm AEST (6pm NZT).

Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Julian Savea, Bailyn Sullivan, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Salesi Rayasi, Jackson Garden-Bachop, TJ Perenara, Ardie Savea, Blake Gibson, TK Howden, Justin Sangster, James Blackwell, Tyrel Lomax, James O’Reilly, Pouri Rakete-Stones. Reserves: Kianu Kereru-Symes, Xavier Numia, Tevita Mafileo, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Caleb Delany, Jamie Booth, Aidan Morgan, Billy Proctor.

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