Pisi picked to stiffen the Hurricanes' defence

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 11/04/2013
Tusi Pisi
Photosport
DEFENSIVE QUALITIES: Tusi Pisi will start at first-five for the Hurricanes against the Blues.

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Beauden Barrett has been put back to fullback with Tusi Pisi to wear the Hurricanes No 10 jersey for Saturday's Super Rugby match against the Blues at Eden Park.

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has largely retained faith in the side that put the Waratahs to the sword with the only other possible change being the return of loosehead prop Ben Franks.

Franks, who pulled out of the last match with a back strain, has been bracketed with Reggie Goodes.

The change is another blow to Andre Taylor with last year's star player relegated to the bench for the second time this season. More significantly it appears to be a smart tactical move on the part of Hammett and his assistant Alama Ieremia.

Though Barrett's general play has been top drawer and his kicking of match-winning quality, his defence has been an ongoing issue.

Noticeably, the Hurricanes' opponents' targeting of the inside channel began in week one when they were battered into submission by the Blues.

That day it was loose forwards Steven Luatua and Peter Saili as well as second five-eighth Francis Saili who charged into Barrett's channel to good effect during a 35-20 win at Westpac Stadium.

If the Blues planned a repeat, they will now have to have a rethink with Pisi a more physical presence at first five-eighth.

Hammett's decision will have been helped by the fact Barrett has had some classy moments when moved to fullback in recent weeks, and that Pisi has yet to put a foot wrong during a string of cameos.

And the Hurricanes may have noted the success of the Chiefs who have used fullback Gareth Anscombe at first receiver in certain parts of the field as opposed to first five-eighth Aaron Cruden.

Barrett and Pisi could be used in a similar way at Eden Park, but it is also a gamble of sorts.

Japan-based Pisi is a vastly experienced player with 10 test caps for Samoa and the Pacific Islanders to his name and a Super Rugby career dating back to a solitary appearance for the Crusaders in 2007.

However, he has only started one match for the Hurricanes, a 37-25 loss to the Brumbies last year.

The other feature of the Hurricanes team is the retention of the loose trio that was so effective against the Waratahs.

With Victor Vito (calf) ruled out, Faifili Levave is rewarded for a strong performance at No 8 with another start.

Youngster Ardie Savea is at openside once again with Jack Lam on the bench and Karl Lowe given another week off after what must have been an emotionally exhausting week in Hawke's Bay on bereavement leave.

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At hooker Motu Matu'u is another rewarded for a strong match against the Waratahs with Dane Coles, who has been out with a hand injury, bracketed in the reserves with Ash Dixon.

Lock Jeremy Thrush (ankle) was not considered due to injury.

Hurricanes: Beauden Barrett, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (c), Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Tusi Pisi, TJ Perenara, Faifili Levave, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Jason Eaton, Mark Reddish, Ben May, Motu Matu'u, Ben Franks/Reggie Goodes. Reserves: Dane Coles/Ash Dixon, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Jack Lam, Chris Smylie, Reynold Lee-Lo, Andre Taylor.

- The Dominion Post

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