All Black Ardie Savea is set to make a return to Super Rugby action this week after being named on the Hurricanes’ bench for their Friday clash with the Force in Napier.
Savea returns in the No.20 jersey for Friday’s game after injuring his knee in a loss to the Crusaders in April.
“There will obviously be some focus on Ardie’s return, which is great for us, but the squad as a whole are really looking forward to trying to improve week by week, which is our major focus” coach Jason Holland said.
“The competition has brought some real energy to everyone and we see that in our preparation. We’re also looking forward to mixing with our great fans in the Hawke’s Bay where we have really enjoyed great support and had some fantastic games over the last few years.”
Savea is just one the numerous changes Holland has made to the side who beat the Rebels 35-13 in Wellington last week with the biggest change being Savea’s stand-in at captain, Dane Coles, being rested this week.
In Coles’ place, Asafo Aumua will start at hooker while blindside flanker Reed Prinsep has been handed the captaincy.
Elsewhere, Isaia Walker-Leawere comes into the second row while the experience of utility loose forward Gareth Evans will be used in the run-on side after he returned to action off the bench against the Rebels.
Halfback Luke Campbell also returns to the starting XV while Orbyn Leger will again start at first five-eighth after Ruben Love was unavailable due to a shoulder injury.
There are also changes in the midfield and outside backs with Salesi Rayasi returning to the left wing and Peter Umaga-Jensen partnering Ngani Laumape in the centres.
Friday’s game kicks off at 7:05pm.
Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Wes Goosen, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Ngani Laumape, Salesi Rayasi, Orbyn Leger, Luke Campbell, Gareth Evans, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep (captain), Scott Scrafton, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Tyrel Lomax, Asafo Aumua, Xavier Numia.
Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Alex Fidow, James Blackwell, Ardie Savea, Cam Roigard, Billy Proctor, Vince Aso.