Nine new Hurricanes will be involved in Wednesday’s Investec Super Rugby pre-season game with the Western Force in Gosford on Wednesday.
Coach Chris Boyd still doesn’t have six World Cup All Blacks available to him for selection for the Super Rugby runners-up from last season so will take the chance to give new players some exposure to this level of play.
With 26 players making the trip north of Sydney the newcomers will be Pita Ahki, Loni Uhila, Michael Fatialofa, Tony Lamborn, Hisa Sasagi, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, James Blackwell, Malo Tuitama and Peter Umaga-Jensen.
Finding replacements for the world-class Test pairing of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith will be one of the key objects of the Hurricanes’ pre-season build-up and Willis Halaholo and Ahki will have the first opportunity to state their cases on Wednesday.
Also likely to feature at centre during the game are Wellington players Matt Proctor and Jason Woodward.
Boyd said: “Everyone’s been putting in the hard yards on the training paddock and in the gym, but there’s no substitute for match play and they can’t wait to get out on the field.
“For a number of our guys it will be their first time playing together in a match situation and it’s important we give those combinations time together before the start of the season proper.”
Not considered due to injury were mid-fielders Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso.
Taranaki halfback Tahuriorangi will be paired with Manawatu first five-eighths Otere Black behind the pack.
Leading the side will be Brad Shields with Dane Coles and TJ Perenara, the captain and vice-captain still not available. Shields will be on the blindside of the scrum with Callum Gibbins on the openside.
The Hurricanes will also play a warm-up game against the Blues in Eketahuna on February 13 and on February 26 they will play the Brumbies in their opening Super Rugby game.
The team to play the Force in a game of four quarters on Wednesday is:
1.Reg Goodes, 2.Motu Matu’u, 3.Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 4.Vaea Fifita, 5.Mark Abbott, 6.Brad Shields (captain), 7.Callum Gibbins, 8.Blade Thomson, 9.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 10.Otere Black, 11.Wes Goosen, 12.Willis Halaholo, 13.Pita Ahki, 14.Matt Proctor, 15.Jason Woodward.
Reserves: Leni Apisai, Loni Uhila, Ben May, Hisa Sasagi, Chris Eves, Michael Fatialofa, James Blackwell, Tony Lamborn, Frae Wilson, Malo Tuitama, Peter Umaga-Jensen.