Ben Franks' big chance to impress Hammett

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2013
Ben Franks
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
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Former Crusader Ben Franks will make his Hurricanes debut as coach Mark Hammett looks for further clues to his best combinations against the Melbourne Rebels, in Geelong, tomorrow.

Franks will start at loosehead prop for his new franchise alongside European tour team-mate Dane Coles who will be flanked by newcomer Eric Sione.

Prop has become an area of strength for the Hurricanes this season with youngsters Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Reggie Goodes and experienced Ben May in the reserves.

Franks, with 23 tests to his credit may start with his nose ahead but the battle for game-time among the big men promises to be a feature of the season.

The other feature of the side is the return of three current All Blacks with Victor Vito at No 8, and wing Julian Savea and first-five Beauden Barrett in the reserves.

Captain Conrad Smith will not make the trip to Geelong but said he may make an appearance the following week against the Chiefs in Mangatainoka.

In terms of combinations, it is hard to go past the loose forwards where Vito, young openside Ardie Savea and big blindside Faifili Levave strike a promising balance of speed, power, size and experience. Savea missed last week's 27-26 win over the Crusaders with a toe injury.

Meanwhile, there was a dearth of news around Cory Jane's knee injury yesterday after the All Blacks wing met with his surgeon.

Jane ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament during a training accident last week and is expected to miss most, if not all, of the Super Rugby season.

Hammett indicated a replacement would not necessarily be a player in the same position.

"Is that a wing? Is that a midfielder? Or is it fullback? We've still got a bit of time so we don't want to rush into it."

Centre Alapati Leiua (hamstring), loose forwards Brad Shields and Jack Lam (both knee), halfback Samisoni Fisilau (hamstring), and hooker Motu Motu'u (pectoral) were not considered due to injury.

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