Hurricanes loose forward Ardie Savea is set to play his first game in eight months after being named on the bench for their match against the Blues in Auckland on Sunday.
Savea has not played since injuring his knee in the All Blacks’ semi-final exit at the hands of England during the 2019 World Cup.
However, Hurricanes coach Jason Holland named Savea as part of a 6-2 split between forwards and backs on the Hurricanes’ bench for their Vodacom Super Rugby Aotearoa opener. Fellow All Blacks player Vaea Fifita will also provide loose-forward cover on the bench, while Jamie Booth and Billy Proctor are the only two replacement backline players.
The Hurricanes are otherwise close to full strength – bar the injured Jordie Barrett – and will be co-captained by scrumhalf TJ Perenara and hooker Dane Coles.
Chase Tiatia will fill in for Barrett at fullback, alongside Ben Lam and Wes Goosen – who has edged South African Kobus van Wyk out for the right wing spot.
Meanwhile, Holland has opted to name Jackson Garden-Bachop at flyhalf ahead of Fletcher Smith, while tighthead prop Tyrel Lomax makes his comeback from suspension.
Hurricanes – 15 Chase Tiatia, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 TJ Perenara (co-captain), 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles (co-captain), 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Subs: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Tevita Mafileo, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 Ardie Savea, 22 Jamie Booth, 23 Billy Proctor.
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images