Canes near full strength for Crusaders clash

Last updated 15:32 12/02/2014

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Conrad Smith will start at centre in the Hurricanes' final Super Rugby preseason match against the Cruasaders in Levin on Friday night.

The game will also mark Richie McCaw's first game off the bench for the Crusaders this season.

Smith's first match since returning from a four-month sabbatical will be in a near full-strength Hurricanes side.

First five-eighth Beauden Barrett makes his first start, with Tasman recruit Marty Banks dropping back to fullback in what could be a hint at coach Mark Hammett's preferred combination for the season proper.

Alapati Leiua returns from injury on the left wing with All Black Julian Savea is once again coming off the bench as he eases back to full throttle.

Interestingly, Wellington wider training group member Adam Hill starts at blindside in the absence of the injured Brad Shields with Jack Lam at openside and Victor Vito at No 8.

Blindside Faifili Levave is named on the bench after recovering from the shin splints which kept him out of the opening two warm up matches.

Mark Abbott and Jeremy Thrush start together as the locking combination while Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles and Ben Franks are in the front row.

Hammett is treating the match as a final trial before naming his squad to head to South Africa on Saturday for the opening two matches of the Hurricanes season.

The Crusaders will start 11 past or present All Blacks with another five, including McCaw and senior All Black lock Sam Whitelock, on an 11-strong substitutes' bench.

Luke Whitelock and wing Johnny McNicholl will make their 2014 season bows after sitting out last week's win over the Highlanders in Motueka.

Hurricanes: Marty Banks, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Tim Bateman, Alapati Leiua, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Jack Lam, Adam Hill, Mark Abbott, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Reserves: Motu Matu'u, Ash Dixon, John Schwalger, Brendon Edmonds, Chris Eves, James Broadhurst, Mark Reddish, Blade Thomson, Faifili Levave, Ardie Savea, Callum Gibbins, Chris Smylie, Billy Guyton, James Marshall, Hadleigh Parkes, Cardiff Vaega, Julian Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Andre Taylor.

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Johnny McNicholl, Ryan Crotty (c),  Tom Taylor, Nafi Tuitavake, Colin Slade, Willi Heinz, Luke Whitelock, Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett: Reserves: Corey Flynn, Tim Perry, Nepo Laulala, Sam Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Jordan Taufua, Andy Ellis, Tyler Bleyendaal, Rob Thompson, Zac Guildford, Reynold Lee-Lo.  

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- The Dominion Post

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