Jeremy Thrush to captain youthful Hurricanes
Lock Jeremy Thrush will captain a youthful looking Hurricanes side during their do-or-die Super Rugby match against the Crusaders at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
Thrush takes over the leadership role from injured centre Conrad Smith, who will miss the match after breaking a thumb during the All Blacks second test win over England in Dunedin two weeks ago.
Tim Bateman takes Smith's place at centre with Samoan international Alapati Leiua at second five-eighth in a backline featuring returning All Blacks halves TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett and in-form wing Cory Jane.
In the pack All Black hooker Dane Coles and loose head prop Ben Franks have been named to start, but it's the young brigade that stand out in coach Mark Hammett's selection.
Experienced blindside Faifili Levave will miss the match due to an ankle injury picked up playing for Samoa this month meaning Brad Shields comes into the starting line up along side young openside Ardie Savea.
Savea will start in the No 7 jersey ahead of Levave's Samoan test teammate Jack Lam, who will come off the bench after a heavy test workload through June.
Likewise ever improving Blade Thomson pushes James Broadhurst to the bench, while the speedy Matt Proctor continues at fullback.
In the reserves Motu Matu'u is in doubt with an injury and has been bracketed in the reserves. If Matu'u is ruled out prop Brendon Edmonds will come into the match day 23 with Reggie Goodes covering hooker.
The Hurricanes must win the match to have any chance of advancing to the playoffs.
They beat the Crusaders 29-26 earlier this season in Christchurch and have enjoyed five wins and a draw against the red and blacks over the past ten matches between the sides.
The New Zealand Conference leading Crusaders have surprisingly named All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read in the reserves for the match.
The Crusaders are minus All Black fullback Israel Dagg (knee) and openside Richie McCaw (ribs), as well as try scoring wing Nemani Nadolo, who is on test duty with Fiji, but have still named a formidable side.
Read is part of a powerful reserves bench that includes returning All Blacks first five-eighth Dan Carter and prop Owen Franks.
Meanwhile, the TAB have installed the Crusaders as slight favourites for the match with the visitors paying $1.80 for the win to the Hurricanes $1.95.
Hurricanes: Matt Proctor, Cory Jane, Tim Bateman, Alapati Leiua, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Blade Thomson, Jeremy Thrush (c), Jeffery Toomaga Allen, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Reserves: Motu Matu'u/Reggie Goodes, Chris Eves, Reggie Goodes/Brendon Edmonds, James Broadhurst, Jack Lam, Chris Smylie, Hadleigh Parkes, James Marshall.
Crusaders: Tom Taylor, Johnny McNicholl, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty (captain), Nafi Tuitavake, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Luke Whitelock, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Samuel Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Nepo Laulala, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Jimmy Tupou, Kieran Read, Willi Heinz, Dan Carter, Rob Thompson.