Hurricanes lineup announced
Tongan halfback Samisoni Fisilau is the only surprise face in the Hurricanes for the 2013 Super Rugby championship.
Fisilau was one of eight new Hurricanes named this morning and coach Mark Hammett said the 24 year-old caught the eye with his performances behind the Northland pack in this year's NPC.
''He's an international to start with,'' Hammett said at the squad announcement at the Maranui Surf Club.
''He's combative, he's skilful and has a good box kick.
''Things tend to happen around him. We are excited about him and there will be good competition amongst the three halfbacks.''
The other No 9s in the Hurricanes' 32-man squad are young gun TJ Perenara and Chris Smylie.
Many of the eight new Hurricanes were signposted before the announcement, notably prop Ben Franks' move from the Crusaders.
The other six newbies are Counties midfield back Rey Lee-Lo, Wellington representatives Ardie Savea (loose forward), Matt Proctor (wing) and Eric Sione (prop) and the Taranaki pair of Blade Thomson (loose forward/lock) and James Marshall (utility back).
If the Hurricanes are light anywhere it appears at hooker, with just Dane Coles and Motu Matu'u named in an 18 forward, 14 back selection split.
''We see Reg Goodes as our third hooker,'' Hammett said.
''We have taken five props with Eric Sione. We will have a hooker in our [yet to be announced] wider training group.''
Hammett was loathe to make any lofty prediction about how the Hurricanes would fare in 2013.
They were written off last year and finished eighth and if yesterday's launch was anything to go by there is a quiet confidence that a higher finish is on the cards.
''You know I don't predict that,'' Hammett said to gathered media.
''There are 15 teams that want to win a competition or make the finals series and we are no different.
''We want to challenge to do better than we did last year. It will be an interesting year. We could play a heck of lot better and maybe not finish as well as we did last year. That is our challenge.''
Hammett did concede there was a stable feel to his Hurricanes squad.
He seems wary of the second year syndrome, where the underdog earns respect one year then struggles when no longer having the element of surprise or motivation to prove critics wrong.
Another feature of the Hurricanes squad is in the inclusion of the Savea brothers, All Black Julian (22) and Ardie (19).
Both were at the launch sipping coffee, along with Victor Vito.
Ardie was in a moon boot and said it was just to speed up the healing process of his toe ligament injury.
He has not played alongside his brothers in 15-a-side since they were at school at Rongotai College.
Flanker Jack Lam's injury sitution sounds more serious.
''Jack will be touch and go,'' Hammett said.
''He's had an operation. He might be a couple of weeks into it (before he is available).''
Back-up first five-eighth Tusi Pusi will also be a late starter because of club commitments in Japan.
The Hurricanes will again be captained by Conrad Smith.
Conrad Smith (captain), Beauden Barrett, Tim Bateman, James Broadhurst, Dane Coles, Jason Eaton, Samisoni Fisilau, Ben Franks, Reggie Goodes, Cory Jane, Jack Lam, Rey Lee-Lo, Alapati Leuia, Faifili Lavave, Karl Lowe, James Marshall, Motu Matu'u, Ben May, TJ Perenara, Tusi Pusi, Matt Proctor, Mark Reddish, Ardie Savea, Julian Savea, Brad Shields, Eric Sione, Chris Smylie, Andre Taylor, Blade Thomson, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Victor Vito.
The Dominion Post