Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham has named a Super Rugby team with two changes to the starting line up to play current champions the Hurricanes at Mclean Park in Napier on Friday.
Hooker Josh Mann-Rea has sufficiently recovered from a knee injury to reclaim the number 2 jersey from Robbie Abel, whilst left winger James Dargaville is back in the run-on team in place of Tom Banks.
Mann-Rea last featured against the Waratahs in the 28-12 win at Allianz Stadium in Sydney and will play in his 50th Super Rugby match. Dargaville meanwhile will make his fifth start of the campaign having scored a try off the bench against the Reds in Round 7.
Abel is named amongst the replacements, where there is also a recall for back-rower Lola Fakaosilea in place of Tom Staniforth with Larkham going to a 5-3 split on the bench as Nigel Ah Wong comes back into contention.
The Brumbies come into the match having a good overall record against the Hurricanes, including the remarkable 52-10 thrashing of the New Zealanders to open the 2016 season. The ‘Canes, of course, went on to claim the title.
Centre Tevita Kuridrani, who crossed for a try in that rout of the Hurricanes, will team up alongside Andrew Smith in the heart of the Brumbies midfield with leading try-scorer Henry Speight, who has six for the season, playing on the opposite wing to Dargaville.
Up front, apart from the recalled Mann-Rea, it’s a settled unit with Wallaby props Scott Sio and Allan Alaalatoa providing ballast in the front-row in front of skipper Sam Carter and Rory Arnold in the second-row. Jarrad Butler, Scott Fardy and Chris Alcock provide the rest of the pack.
Hamilton-born Wharenui Hawera returns to the country of his birth as the Brumbies chief playmaker looking to add to his season tally of 54 points.
15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Andrew Smith, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (captain), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 De Wet Roos, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Nigel Ah Wong