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Perenara captains Hurricanes against Blues

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Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has named halfback TJ Perenara as captain of the team to play a Super Rugby pre-season warm up against the Blues.

Perenara will lead a run on side featuring five World Cup winning All Blacks for the annual fixture at Eketahuna Rugby Club.

Fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder, wing Julian Savea, halves Beauden Barrett and Perenara as well as No 8 Victor Vito, will all play for the first time since their World Cup final win over Australia last year.

The match will also feature the Hurricanes debut of former Warriors rugby league players and NRL rookie of the year Ngani Laumape, who will combine with centre Matt Proctor in the midfield.

Laumape, along with wing Cory Jane, were among a sizable group of Hurricanes players who missed the team’s opening preseason match against the Force in Sydney last week.

Hurricanes 2016 vice-captain Perenara takes the leadership role in the absence of season skipper Dane Coles, who is attending a wedding, with Samoan World Cup hooker Motu Matu’u starting in the No 2 jersey.

Coach Chris Boyd said the match was an important starting point for the season with his full squad available for the first time.

“We had a good hit out against the Western Force last weekend, but our time in Gisborne has given us an opportunity to add some real clarity to what we’re doing and I’m pretty pleased with how we’ve come together as a group.

“This is our first match as a full squad, which is exciting, but we know the Blues will bring a lot of intensity up front and they have some very dangerous backs, so we know we’ll need to turn up ready for a battle.”

Boyd said it was important to give his All Blacks some meaningful game time two weeks out from the start of the season proper.

“It’s been really pleasing to see our All Blacks come back excited about the season ahead and keen to pull the Hurricanes jersey on again.

“We are still looking at combinations and there are still places up for grabs. Our guys know that and they know there is a real opportunity to put their hands up for selection over the next couple of weeks.”

Boyd has not settled on his reserves bench with several players being assessed for minor injuries before the final squad of 28 can be confirmed.

The Hurricanes will play one more preseason match, against the Crusaders in Blenheim next Friday, before their Super Rugby season kicks off against the Brumbies in Canberra on February 26.

Hurricanes

15 Nehe Milner-Skudder , 14 Cory Jane , 13 Matt Proctor , 12 Ngani Laumape , 11 Julian Savea , 10 Beauden Barrett , 9 TJ Perenara (c) , 8 Victor Vito , 7 Callum Gibbins , 6 Brad Shields , 5 Mark Abbott , 4 Blade Thomson , 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen , 2 Motu Matu’u , 1 Reggie Goodes

Replacements from: Leni Apisai, Chris Eves, Ben May, Hisa Sasagi, Loni Uhila, James Blackwell, Vaea Fifita, Tony Lamborn, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Otere Black, James Marshall, Pita Ahki, Willis Halaholo, Jason Woodward, Wes Goosen, Malo Tuitama.

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