Big guns return for Hurricanes to face Chiefs
The Hurricanes have rushed their All Blacks stars back for Friday's Super Rugby clash with the Chiefs in Hamilton, but their Samoan internationals are not as ready to resume hostilities.
Prop Ben Franks, hooker Dane Coles, lock Jeremy Thrush, No 8 Victor Vito, first five-eighth Beauden Barrett, centre Conrad Smith and wing Julian Savea will start for the Hurricanes at Waikato Stadium.
However, flanker Jack Lam has missed selection altogether and utility backs Alapati Leiua and Tusi Pisi are only fit enough for the bench after returning from playing for Samoa in their quadrangular tournament in South Africa.
Leiua trained with the Hurricanes at Rugby League Park today, while Lam and Pisi sat out.
Andre Taylor (shoulder), Tim Bateman (knee), Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (knee), Motu Matu'u (arm) and Ardie Savea (New Zealand under-20 duty) were not considered for selection.
Taylor did not look hampered at training, though, after picking up his injury during last Friday's friendly match against the Crusaders in Levin.
James Marshall will start at fullback, with Matt Proctor in the right wing spot usually occupied by Leiua.
Flanker Faifili Levave was bracketed on the bench but got through an energetic session today and should be fit to be in the 22, having been in a moon boot earlier this week.
Coach Mark Hammett was in a typically relaxed mood after training, waxing lyrical about the impact his returning All Blacks have made.
The Hurricanes have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the Super Rugby playoffs, but Hammett distanced himself from any talk of that today.
His only goal for the Hurricanes, heading into their final three games, is that they win them all.
Hurricanes: James Marshall, Matt Proctor, Conrad Smith (c), Reynold Lee-Lo, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Karl Lowe, Brad Shields, James Broadhurst, Jeremy Thrush, Ben May, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Reggie Goodes, Mark Reddish, Faifili Levave/Blade Thompson, Chris Smylie, Tusi Pisi, Alapati Leiua.