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'Right now, if he stays fit, I'd take him': The All Black chances for the Hurricanes' front row veterans

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

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The Hurricanes were boosted by the long awaited return of two All Black front rowers, Owen Franks and Dane Coles, when they played the Fijian Drua at Sky Stadium on Sunday.

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34-year-old Franks made his club debut, while Coles returned from a layoff for his first game of the season in the 67-5 victory.

Former Highlanders lock Joey Wheeler said it was great to have them back playing to provide valuable experience to a youthful Hurricanes team on this week’s episode of The Breakdown. 

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The Breakdown | Sky Sport NZ | Episode 12
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The Breakdown | Sky Sport NZ | Episode 12

“Brilliant to see this guy [Franks] back in New Zealand footy,” Wheeler said.

“Dane Coles has been out for a long time, those calves of his, he’s got some real issues there, but great to see them back to add some experience to what was a really young Hurricanes side.

“They’ve blooded a lot of young players to give them experience.

“These guys, getting them back in the mix, after a significant injury to Owen Franks, we can’t understate an Achilles injury at his age, coming back into the front row. He didn’t look out of place at all.”

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Whether the pair of All Blacks would be in contention for the national side was a discussion for The Breakdown panel.

Ex-All Black wing John Kirwan predicted that Coles was more likely of the two to make it back as he ‘still brings something special’ and offers the combative competitiveness that is needed at the international level.

“I think it is a little easier for Dane,” Kirwan said.

“Right now, if he stays fit, I’d take him as an All Black, even if he was number three.

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“Because he still brings something special. He sits out wide, he can step, he brings that little bit of niggle when you need it.

“Owen I think is going to have to work his way into it.

“We’ve got a lot of really good young props coming through. We’ve got 18 test matches to go. Would he be good coming in late in a test match? The answer would be yes.

“But otherwise you’ve actually got to stick with what you’ve got.

“Those guys that can run on, with 10 or 12 test matches. If you get an injury, then maybe he might come into consideration, but I think Dane is probably the guy that we’d be looking at.”

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