Hurricanes reinforced by All Blacks trio to make Lions' task that little bit harder
Steve Hansen has made the British and Irish Lions’ task of bouncing back from their first Test defeat against the Hurricanes on Tuesday that little bit harder after releasing three of his New Zealand squad to feature in the match, all of whom are named in the starting line-up.
After being surprisingly left out of Saturday’s encounter at Eden Park, Julian Savea has been sent back to Wellington to start on the wing for the Hurricanes, with centre Ngani Laumape and full-back Jordie Barrett also included in Chris Boyd’s side.
A fourth All Black, flanker Vaea Fifita, will also line up against the Lions, having recently made his debut for New Zealand in the 78-0 thrashing of Samoa nine days ago. Nehe Milner-Skudder will face Warren Gatland’s side for the second time on this tour, having been named as one of four Maori All Blacks in the starting XV, while a unique milestone could be in store for replacement Cory Jane, with the former All Blacks international having the chance to face the Lions in both the 2005 and 2017 tours after featuring for the Wellington Lions 12 years ago.
“We are under no illusions as to the challenge the British and Irish Lions will present and we want to put our best foot forward for what promises to be a memorable occasion,” said head coach Boyd.
“It’s a fantastic event for our club, but also for the city of Wellington and the region, so hopefully the match will live up to its billing. We are looking forward to kick-off.”
While the focus will be on Savea, Laumape and Barrett to see if they can seize their chance to face the Lions in Saturday’s second Test here in Wellington, the Lions would be well advised to keep a close eye on Laumape’s centre partner, Vince Aso, who has matched the All Blacks centre’s feat of scoring 14 tries in Super Rugby this season.
The pair are a key reason why the Hurricanes have won 11 of their 14 games this season and sit second in the New Zealand conference in Super Rugby, though they will be without Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett who remain with the All Blacks squad, as well as Dane Coles who remains absent through concussion.
Hurricanes squad to face British and Irish Lions: (15-9) Jordie Barrett; Nehe Milner-Skudder, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea; Otere Black, Te Toirora-Tahuriorangi; (1-8) Ben May, Ricky Riccitelli, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen; Mark Abbott, Sam Lousi; Vaea Fifita, Callum Gibbins, Brad Shields.
Replacements: (16-23) Leni Apisai, Chris Eves, Mike Kainga, James Blackwell, Reed Princep, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Wes Goosen, Cory Jane.