Hurricanes unleash 'Tongan Bear' on Chiefs

Wed, 08 Mar 2017 09:25
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TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Loose head prop Loni Uhila and lock Mark Abbott have been ushered into the tight five for the Hurricanes.

The defending Super Rugby champions face compatriots the Chiefs in the big New Zealand derby between two of the tournament's unbeaten sides in Hamilton on Friday.

Uhila, popularly known as The Tongan Bear, pushes Chris Eves to the reserves and Mike Kainga out of the matchday 23, while Abbott makes a straight swap with James Blackwell, who takes his place on the bench.

Uhila missed the opening two rounds of the season, against the Sunwolves and Rebels, due to a calf strain, while Abbott missed the trip to Japan due to personal reasons before entering the competition as a substitute against the Rebels last week.

"Loni and Abbo have both had slightly delayed starts to the season, but they've performed really well through the preseason and now they're ready to enter the fray," Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said.

"That's not a reflection on the guys who they've replaced, but just what we feel will be the best combination for this week."

The Hurricanes come into the match with two wins from two matches after beating the Sunwolves 83-17 in Tokyo and the Rebels 71-6 in Wellington.

The Chiefs have also won their opening two matches in 2017, beating the Highlanders 24-15 in Dunedin in week one, and the Blues, 41-26 in Hamilton in round two.

Hurricanes: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Vince Aso, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Loni Uhila.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben May, 19 James Blackwell, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Otere Black, 23 Jordie Barrett.

Date: Friday, Match 10
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Glen Newman (New Zealand)

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 26 May 2017
Blues v Chiefs 07h45 Auckland
Reds v Force 09h45 Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 27 May 2017
Sunwolves v Cheetahs 05h15 Tokyo
Highlanders v Waratahs 07h35 Dunedin
Rebels v Crusaders 09h45 Melbourne
Bulls v Hurricanes 13h05 Loftus Versfeld
Wasps v Exeter Chiefs 13h30 London
Sharks v Stormers 15h15 Kings Park
Munster v Scarlets 17h15 Dublin
Jaguares v Brumbies 21h40 Buenos Aires
Sun, 28 May 2017
Lions v Kings 12h30 Ellis Park Stadium
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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 11 4 0 7 23
Waratahs 11 4 0 7 19
Reds 11 3 0 8 16
Force 11 3 0 8 13
Rebels 11 1 1 9 8
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 12 12 0 0 54
Hurricanes 11 9 0 2 43
Chiefs 11 9 0 2 43
Highlanders 12 9 0 3 41
Blues 12 6 0 6 31
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 11 7 0 4 30
Bulls 11 3 0 8 15
Cheetahs 12 2 0 10 11
Sunwolves 11 1 0 10 7
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 12 11 0 1 51
Sharks 12 8 1 3 38
Jaguares 11 5 0 6 24
Kings 11 4 0 7 19