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Super Rugby talent drain? Check out the line-ups for this pre-season game

By Ian Cameron
Julian Savea and Sonny Bill Williams are among the big guns lining out

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Stories of an apparent Southern Hemisphere exodus northwards since the Rugby World Cup in 2015 have been the fodder of media outlets both north and south of the equator.

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The haemorrhaging of player talent, especially from New Zealand’s Super Rugby sides, has been the focus of much debate and hand wringing.

However, if you look at the make-up of the Hurricanes versus Auckland Blues pre-season friendly in Auckland on Thursday afternoon, it’s clear there’s still a huge amount of firepower at the disposal of Super Rugby.

New Hurricanes recruit Ihaia West starts at flyhalf and will take on his former team in one of the game’s more interesting subplots. However, it’s the sheer number of outstanding players lining up that catches the eye.

The Hurricanes named their team earlier earlier today.

15 Matt Proctor
14 Julian Savea
13 Vince Aso
12 Ngani Laumape
11 Wes Goosen
10 Ihaia West
9 TJ Perenara
8 Gareth Evans
7 Ardie Savea
6 Brad Shields
5 Vaea Fifita
4 Sam Lousi
3 Ben May
2 Ricky Riccitelli
1 Toby Smith

Reserves: Asafo Aumua, James O’Reilly, Alex Fidow, Chris Eves, Fraser Armstrong, Murray Douglas, James Blackwell, Michael Fatialofa, Sam Henwood, Reed Prinsep, Blade Thomson, Jamie Booth, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Chase Tiatia, Ben Lam, Jonah Lowe, Trent Renata.

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The Blues are also fielding a side heavily stacked with star power, not least Sonny Bill Williams and Jerome Kaino.

The Blues starting team is:

1 Alex Hodgman
2 James Parsons
3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
4 Josh Goodhue
5 Scott Scrafton
6 Jerome Kaino
7 Dalton Papalii
8 Jimmy Tupou
9 Augustine Pulu (captain),
10 Bryn Gatland
11 Rieko Ioane
12 Sonny Bill Williams
13 TJ Faiane
14 Matt Duffie or Jordan Trainor
15 Melani Nanai.

Second half team: Pauliasi Manu, Leni Apisai, Sione Mafileo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Glenn Preston, Murphy Taramai, Akira Ioane; Jonathan Ruru, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Jordan Hyland, TJ Faiane, Orbyn Leger, Tamati Tua, Jordan Trainor.

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Replacements: Mike Tamoaieta, Ross Wright, Jacob Pierce, Sione Havili, Sam Nock, George Moala.

While the exodus of talent north is a real phenomenon, the embarassment of riches at the disposal of New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises suggest they’re more than able to take the hits and bounce straight back up.

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