Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Vito still in doubt

Victor Vito. File photo / Getty Images
Victor Vito. File photo / Getty Images

Hurricanes No 8 Victor Vito remains in doubt for Saturday's home outing against the Waratahs due to a calf complaint.

Vito didn't take part in training today at Rugby League Park in Newtown and if he was to be ruled out for this weekend's game, Faifili Levave will start in his place at the back of the scrum with Jack Lam moving on to the bench.

Back-up hooker Ash Dixon (shoulder) and reserve prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (sternum) were both bracketed on the bench for Saturday's game but came through training unscathed.

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett said Vito would be given more time to prove his fitness.

"He's progressed fairly well but we'll wait till tomorrow (fri) and if he's not right we certainly won't be risking him," Hammett said.

Motu Matu'u will start in the No 2 jersey this weekend as Dane Coles has been ruled out with a thumb injury. Jeremy Thrush was still in a moon boot at training and won't play due to an ankle injury, which gives Mark Reddish the opportunity to start in the second row.

The most intriguing name on the team sheet for the round eight clash is that of openside flanker Ardie Savea who will make his long-awaited Hurricanes debut.

The 19-year-old's progress was stunted slightly this year after he copped a four-week ban for a dangerous tackle in the final pre-season game against the Chiefs in Mangatainoka but after three hit-outs for the development side his time has come.

If Vito was to miss this weekend's game, a loose trio of Savea, Levave and Brad Shields would scream of inexperience but Hammett said it was an interesting group.

"Quite an exciting one really. I think Faifili and Ardie and Brad, who's obviously in very good form, [are] quite devastating in terms of their ability on attack and defence."

Hawkes Bay players Karl Lowe and Mike Coman have been given the week off from team duties following the death of Hannah Eaton, wife of former Hurricanes halfback Chris Eaton, who died in a road accident last Saturday.

Meanwhile, Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu makes a return to the NSW starting line-up for this weekend's game and will pack down alongside Benn Robinson and hooker John Ulugia in the front row.

Coach Michael Cheika has left the rest of the starting side unchanged following Sunday's 23-19 victory over the Western Force, although Wycliff Palu has joined the bench after recovering from an ankle injury.

Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith, Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito/Faifili Levave, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Jason Eaton, Mark Reddish, Ben May, Motu Matu'u, Ben Franks. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Faifili Levave/Jack Lam, Chris Smylie, Tusi Pisi, Reynold Lee-Lo.

Waratahs: Israel Folau, Peter Betham, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Brendan McKibbin, Pat McCutcheon, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (capt), Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani, Sekope Kepu, John Ulugia, Benn Robinson. Reserves: Luke Holmes, Paddy Ryan, Mitchell Chapman, Wycliff Palu, Matt Lucas, Ben Volavola, Tom Kingston


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