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Super Rugby Aotearoa lands in Wellington for the first time this weekend as both teams chase their first win of the competition.
After making a return from injury off the bench against the Blues last week, Hurricanes loose Ardie Savea will start his first match since last year’s Rugby World Cup semi-final between New Zealand and England. Fellow All Black Vaea Fifita also joins the forward pack to sure up a team that were a little off the pace in Auckland in their opening Super Rugby Aotearoa match.
The Crusaders, meanwhile, had a first-round bye so were able to sit back and get a good look at how referees are policing the breakdown. Sam Whitelock makes a return for the red and black machine, having spent the first half of the year playing in Japan, while David Havili and Ethan Blackadder are both returning from injury off the bench. Billy Harmon also gets his first match of the year, with injury forcing him to watch from the sidelines as young tyro Tom Christie made a name for himself.
There are All Blacks head-to-heads across the park, starting in the front row where Dane Coles and Codie Taylor will both wear the captain’s armband for their respective sides. Perhaps the most exciting prospect of the night is Ngani Laumape lining up against Jack Goodhue – who’s moved in one position in the backline to accommodate Braydon Ennor’s switch into the midfield.
Laumape missed out on selection for last year’s World Cup but with both Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty now playing overseas, there’s room for at least one additional midfielder in the All Blacks moving forward. Laumape was somewhat subdued against the Blues and the challenge doesn’t get any easier this week.
While the Crusaders have won their last five Super Rugby games on the bounce against the Hurricanes, Hurricanes have won five of their last six Super Rugby games at home to the Crusaders.
The Hurricanes will be aiming to avoid back-to-back Super Rugby defeats at home for the first time since round four, 2014 after losing 24-15 to the Blues in their most recent game on home turf.
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