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Hurricanes All Blacks return to face Crusaders

TJ Perenara starts for the Hurricanes

Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd has included All Blacks TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett and Ardie Savea in his team to play the Crusaders at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

The key trio represents the only changes to the team that started during last month’s famous 31-31 draw with the The British & Irish Lions.

Saturday’s match represents the final match of the Super Rugby regular season with the result set to influence the path each team takes during the playoffs.

For the Hurricanes a win would mean a trip to Canberra to play the Brumbies in the quarterfinals, while a loss would see the defending champions fly to Cape Town to play the Stormers.

The Crusaders are out to retain their unbeaten record and ensure they finish top of the regular season ladder, giving them home advantage throughout the playoffs.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has named his strongest possible side for what shapes as one of the matches of the season.

Perenara replaces Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi at halfback and reclaims the captaincy from Brad Shields, Barrett slots back into the No.10 jersey for Otere Black, while Ardie Savea takes over at openside from Callum Gibbins.

Black drops out of the match day 23 meaning Jordie Barrett will again provide cover at first five for his older brother.

Gibbins, who was outstanding during the famous draw against the Lions, takes his place on a reserve bench that features the return of prop Loni Uhila and a potential debut for hooker James O’Reilly.

O’Reilly comes into the squad for Leni Apisai, who has been ruled out due to an ankle injury picked up playing club rugby last weekend.

The Hurricanes regular season record heading into the match is won 11 and lost three matches, including a 20-12 loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch on May 13.

The Crusaders have won all 14 of their matches in 2017.

Hurricanes

15 Jordie Barrett , 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder , 13 Vince Aso , 12 Ngani Laumape , 11 Julian Savea , 10 Beauden Barrett , 9 TJ Perenara (c) , 8 Brad Shields , 7 Ardie Savea , 6 Vaea Fifita , 5 Sam Lousi , 4 Mark Abbott , 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen , 2 Ricky Riccitelli , 1 Ben May

Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly , 17 Chris Eves , 18 Loni Uhila , 19 Reed Prinsep , 20 Callum Gibbins , 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi , 22 Wes Goosen , 23 Cory Jane