As the Hurricanes prepare for their first home game since their return from Australia, Head Coach Jason Holland has named his side to take on the Fijian Drua on Sunday with Hurricanes legend Dane Coles set to make a welcome return.
Coles will look to add to 128 caps for the Hurricanes, making his first appearance for the 2022 DHL Super Rugby season after sustaining a hamstring injury during the All Blacks Northern Tour.
“We’re thrilled to have Colesy in the 23 this week. We’ve taken it slowly with him to make sure he’s 100% when he comes back, and he’s absolutely flying around the place now,” said Holland.
"There are some obvious things with Colesy, about what he’ll bring in creating a bit of edge around the group and the way he leads, which is great for our boys. He’s dying to play and dying to contribute.”
Manawatū Turbos loose forward Tyler Laubscher is one of three debutants named in Holland’s side and will start at number eight, while exciting midfielder Riley Higgins looks to debut off the bench. At 19 years of age, Higgins will become one of the youngest in Hurricanes history.
“Tyler has been around our environment for a couple of years now but is coming in to debut after being out of the game for 18 months or so with long-term injury. He’s an athlete that we’ve been really excited about, but he hasn't been able to get out on the field. He’s a power athlete, quick and explosive, and he’s worked hard to get here through his rehab.”
“Riley has come through the academy system and is a good strong midfielder who we’ve got a lot of time for. Just like many young players, you wait for your time, and work away behind the scenes and now he’s got to that stage. He’s worked really hard, and the opportunity has popped up, and we’re sure he will take it,” said Holland.
All Blacks Centurian Owen Franks will also make his Hurricanes debut, after months off the grass due to a torn Achilles.
“Owen is an awesome story. He’s one of the most driven and professional athletes I’ve ever seen in operation. To get back to where he is now after all the setbacks with his body has been unbelievable to watch. He’s desperate to play and desperate to contribute and we are stoked for him that he gets to play after how hard he has worked,” said Holland.
With All Blacks Ardie Savea and Jordie Barrett taking a rest week, TJ Perenara will call the shots from the base of the scrum and will captain the side in Savea’s absence.
The Hurricanes will take on the Fijian Drua at Sky Stadium, Sunday, 8 May at 3:35PM. Adults can secure tickets from $20, and kids go free with a paying adult – Tickets available here.
The match will be televised live on Sky Sport.
Hurricanes team to face the Fijian Drua:
1. Xavier Numia
2. Asafo Aumua
3. Tyrel Lomax
4. Isaia Walker-Leawere
5. Justin Sangster
6. Blake Gibson
7. Du’Plessis Kirifi
8. Tyler Laubscher *
9. TJ Perenara (c)
10. Aidan Morgan
11. Salesi Rayasi
12. Billy Proctor
13. Bailyn Sullivan
14. Wes Goosen
15. Josh Moorby
16. Dane Coles
17. Tevita Mafileo
18. Owen Franks *
19. Caleb Delany
20. TK Howden
21. Cameron Roigard
22. Jackson Garden-Bachop
23. Riley Higgins *
* Denotes debut
Unavailable for selection: Devan Flanders, Ruben Love, Brayden Iose, Reed Prinsep, Pepesana Patafilo, Teihorangi Walden, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Julian Savea, James Blackwell
Unavailable due to All Blacks rest week: Ardie Savea, Jordie Barrett