Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Hammett's life made easier by Savea decision

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett. Photo / Getty
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett. Photo / Getty

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett was this week grilled on why he decided to name wing Julian Savea in his team to play the Force.

On Sunday, two days after the match in Wellington, it was announced that Savea was facing a charge of common assault. He tearfully apologised at a press conference. A day later he appeared at Wellington District Court and was remanded on bail without plea until May 15.

Now, though, Hammett has no such dilemma in deciding whether to name the 22-year-old All Black to play the Stormers in Palmerston North, as Savea has made himself unavailable.

Hammett said: "Julian has made himself unavailable for the Stormers game this week before he re-joins the team next week. Julian has approached us on this decision and we agree."

It's a decision which has probably made Hammett's life a bit easier. Now he can get on with the business of coaching a team to a tough challenge against the South Africans on Friday night.

And Hammett has rung the changes, the most significant being the return of Beauden Barrett at first-five and TJ Perenara at halfback. Tusi Pisi and Chris Smylie were used there last week in the narrower than expected 22-16 win over the Force in Wellington, with Barrett at fullback.

Matt Proctor gets his first start on the wing as Savea's replacement. Andre Taylor is at fullback.

Jason Eaton returns to lock and Karl Lowe and Victor Vito to the loose forwards. Lowe has been unavailable due to a family bereavement and Vito because of a calf tear.

There is still no room for flanker Ardie Savea, sensational in his debut match against the Waratahs but not quite as effective a week later in the loss to the Blues in Auckland. He was named on the reserves bench against the Force and remains there for the Stormers.

The Hurricanes, third in the New Zealand conference behind the Blues and Chiefs, and only one point ahead of the Crusaders, will know they need a victory to maintain their position. The Crusaders host the Rebels on Sunday.

* The Hurricanes team to play the Stormers at FMG Stadium at Palmerston North on Friday, kick-off 7.35pm is: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (c), Tim Bateman, Matt Proctor, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Karl Lowe, Brad Shields, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Motu Matu'u, Ben Franks. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Ben May, Mark Reddish, Faifili Levave, Ardie Savea, Chris Smylie, Tusi Pisi.

- APNZ

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