Barrett set for fullback role
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Jordie Barrett will share the Hurricanes fullback duties with Nehe Milner-Skudder as the defending Super Rugby champions start their 2017 preseason campaign against the Blues in Auckland on Saturday.
Milner-Skudder will start in the No.15 jersey before handing the custodian's duties to Barrett in the second half, as head coach Chris Boyd looks to utilise as many of his squad as possible.
"We've essentially picked two teams to play in each half, so one of the main goals is to give a large group of players the chance to get some contact under their belts after a fairly long period focusing largely on strength and conditioning," Boyd said.
"On the rugby front we want to see how our processes work under scrutiny, so there are a number of different things we will be looking to take out of the match."
Barrett's first run in the Hurricanes jersey will be without his older brother Beauden, who, like the squad's other All Blacks, remains unavailable for the first pre-season match of the year.
Barrett won't be the only Hurricanes player following a family tradition on Saturday.
Young Hawke's Bay flyhalf Tiaan Falcon will follow his father Gordon, who played three matches for the Hurricanes at No.8 during the 2000 season, into Hurricanes colours.
Likewise centre Jonah Lowe, also Hawke's Bay, follows in the footsteps of his older brother Karl, who was an accomplished Hurricanes loose forward from 2009 to 2013.
In the pack Wellington lock/loose forward James Blackwell starts at blindside after being called into the squad as an injury replacement for the 2017 season.
Lock Geoff Cridge has been ruled out for the season after having knee surgery post Hawke's Bay's NPC campaign, while James Broadhurst is continuing his recovery from a concussion.
The Hurricanes starting team against the Blues also features a number of players in the wider squad including young Wellington halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, wing Malo Tuitama, lock Isaia Walker-Leawere and hooker Asafo Aumua.
There is more experience up front where Reg Goodes, Michael Fatialofa and Callum Gibbins start at loosehead prop, lock and openside respectively.
The second half side should provide a more seasoned look with the likes of Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Chris Eves, Loni Uhila, Mark Abbott, Brad Shields and Matt Proctor among the extended reserves bench.
Hurricanes: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Malo Tuitama, 13 Jonah Lowe, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Tiaan Falcon, 9 Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, 8 Hugh Renton, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 James Blackwell, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Mike Kainga, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Reg Goodes.
Replacements - from: Loni Uhila, Joe Apikotoa, Chris Eves, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Ricky Riccitelli, Mark Abbott, Vaea Fifita, Brad Shields, Toa Halafihi, Antonio Kirikiri, Reed Prinsep, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Otere Black, Mason Emerson, Ngani Laumape, Matt Proctor, Jordie Barrett.
Date: Saturday, February 4
Venue: High Performance Centre, Alexandra Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 14.30 (01.30 GMT)
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)