New Hurricanes coach faces a player exodus

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:03 13/04/2014
Mark Hammett
ROBERT KITCHIN/Fairfax NZ
MOVING ON: Mark Hammett announcing he will leave the Hurricanes at the end of this season.

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Whoever replaces Mark Hammett as Hurricanes coach next year is already facing an increasing player exodus.

New Zealand's most prominent openside flanker this season, Jack Lam, has already confirmed a move to English club Bristol at the end of the season. Fellow Samoan international Alapati Leiua has also inked a deal with Wasps.

Fairfax Media understands injured second five-eighth Tim Bateman is close to agreeing terms for a second stint in Japan. And in a move that would also be a blow to Taranaki, in-form fullback Andre Taylor is likely to follow suit. Blindside flanker Faifili Levave has also fielded interest from Japanese clubs.

Taylor, 26, has made a major impact since being recalled in recent weeks. His pace and attacking instincts from the back has been the critical spark the Canes' back-three were missing in the early rounds.

Recruitment will be a top priority for the next Canes coach. All Blacks apprentice Ardie Savea is primed to cover Lam's pending departure, but readymade replacements for Bateman, Leiua and Taylor are not obvious, though there is depth in the loose-forwards should Levave decide to go.

This year the Canes have struggled at second-five. Only when Bateman and Leiua have filled the role - once each - has the backline displayed any consistent cohesion.

Fullback has also been problematic. Tasman first-five Marty Banks was initially favoured there but the position did not suit his skill-set.

The next Canes coach could be forced to scout far and wide to cover these crucial roles and, depending on how swiftly an appointment is made, may have little time to do it. 

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