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Rising stars ready for pre-season action this weekend

Rising stars ready for pre-season action this weekend

All BlacksFebruary 10, 2024

There’s no shortage of rising stars ready to make their mark in the second round of DHL Super Rugby Pacific pre-season this weekend.

In a game LIVE on NZR+, the Hurricanes will play their first game of the season at 1pm on Saturday when they meet the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi will captain the side, paired in the loose with TK Howden and Brayden Iose. Ben Grant and Justin Sangster will lock the scrum with hooker James O'Reilly supported by props Pouri Rakete-Stones and Pasilio Tosi.

Halfback Richard Judd is paired with first five-eighths Brett Cameron, while Riley Higgins and Billy Proctor will play in the midfield. Wings Losi Filipo and Daniel Sinkinson will complete the back three with fullback Josh Moorby.

The Hurricanes have named an extended bench with 38-players in the match day squad all set to get important game-time in the pre-season clash.

Meanwhile, the Highlanders have named a match day squad of 30. The Highlanders backline looks extremely strong with livewire halfback Folau Fakatava partnering Welsh maestro Rhys Patchell at first five. Last year’s Moana Pasifika standout Timoci Tavatavanawai will pull on the 14 jersey with excitement machine Jona Nareki partnering him on the left wing.

Tune into NZR+ at 1pm on Saturday to watch the match live and for free.

Over in the UK, Bristol coach Pat Lam has named his strongest side to play the Crusaders at 8.30 am on Saturday (NZT).

Former All Blacks loose forward Steven Luatua will play at lock for Bristol in a side that includes England and British & Irish Lions prop Kyle Sinckler.

Crusaders coach Rob Penney has made 10 changes to the starting XV that lost 19-21 to Munster last weekend.

Willi Heinz will captain the side from halfback, while Ryan Crotty and Jone Rova will be paired in the centres.

Chay Fihaki will start at fullback in the absence through injury of Welsh import Leigh Halfpenny, whose pectoral injury suffered last week is likely to keep him out of action for three to four months.

Kershawl Sykes-Martin and Seb Calder will join George Bell in the front row. Quinten Strange and Jamie Hannah will lock the scrum, with Dominic Gardiner, Corey Kellow and Christian Lio-Willie rounding out the loose forwards.

Manasa Mataele and Macca Springer are the starting wings.

Nine changes have been made to the Chiefs' starting XV by coach Clayton McMillan to meet Kubota Spears Funabashi-Tokyo Bay on Saturday at 6.30 pm (NZT).

Centre Anton Lienert-Brown will captain the side and renew his acquaintance with second five-eighths Quinn Tupaea, who marked his return from injury by producing one of the better performances in last week's loss to Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights.

Prop Aidan Ross and halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi will also appear. Taranaki trio Jared Proffit, Bradley Slater, and Reuben O'Neill will be the starting front row, with Manaaki Selby-Rickit and Naitoa Ah Kuoi locking. Wallace Sititi will start on the blindside flank, with Tom Florence and Simon Parker completing the loose forwards.

Cortez Ratima will start at halfback, while Tana Tuhakaraina, Peniasi Malimali, and Liam Coombe-Fabling will complete the back three.

McMillan said, "The team was disappointed with our first hitout, where we came up against a well-drilled side that exposed us in multiple areas.

"But that's what pre-season fixtures are about, and we will be looking to see some rapid improvement this week, particularly around our physicality and accuracy in collisions.

"Rugby aside – it has been a fantastic cultural experience for the team, and we are confident the on-field and off-field experiences will put us in good stead once the season proper arrives."

The Blues will have nine starting changes as they seek their second win in Japan when playing Yokohama Canon Eagles at 4.10 pm on Saturday.

With captain and lock Patrick Tuipulotu back in New Zealand with a broken jaw, Sam Darry, also a lock, will captain the side.

How's the view in Queenstown 👌#SuperRugbyPacific pic.twitter.com/Dw57MTMDTD

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) February 6, 2024

Darry said that while taking on the captaincy was a privilege, he felt it was more of a leadership by committee.

"I'm still pretty young, but I've got some awesome support around me with a few experienced boys and they've all got behind me, and, hopefully, I can do the job justice on Saturday."

Among the Blues' changes, All Black Caleb Clarke will have a chance to impress on the left wing. Ricky Riccitelli will start at hooker with Jordan Lay and Marcel Renata as props, with Josh Beehre taking Tuipulotu's place. Cameron Suafoa will start on the blindside flank. Taufa Funaki will start at halfback, while Meihana Grindlay will join Corey Evans in the midfield with Zarn Sullivan at fullback.

Cotter said after their 43-7 win last week, he expects a more physical challenge from the Eagles.

"We had a good video session and looked at a few things we want to change, and tighten up this weekend, but we're looking forward to the match, a different opposition, a bit bigger and likely more physical."

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