Rugby: Barrett at fullback again for Hurricanes

Jack Lam is one of four changes introduced to the Hurricanes' forward pack, including Dane Coles (pictured), who will return at hooker this week. Photo / Getty Images.
Jack Lam is one of four changes introduced to the Hurricanes' forward pack, including Dane Coles (pictured), who will return at hooker this week. Photo / Getty Images.

Beauden Barrett will pull on the No 15 jersey for the Hurricanes again this week but his move to fullback is only temporary.

The five-test All Black took on the custodian role last Saturday when the Hurricanes were brought back to earth with a 28-6 defeat at the hands of the Blues at Eden Park as Tusi Pisi started at pivot.

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has retained the same first-five and fullback combination for Friday night's outing against the Western Force at the Cake Tin and said he wanted to give the status quo another crack.

"We thought both Tus and Beaudy had very good games [last weekend] from a game that collectively we didn't spark in. So Tusi has another hit this week with Beaudy and his experience and his ability to create from the back but we will see Beaudy back at 10."

Just exactly when Barrett will return to his preferred position remains to be seen.

Last week the Hurricanes coaching staff said the decision to play Barrett at fullback and Pisi at first-five was tactical but this week it could be just to give Pisi a second chance to guide the team around as they look to build depth in the squad should anything happen to Barrett.

During their loss to the Blues, the Hurricanes relied heavily on their kicking game, which flew in the face of their regular running approach that was so successful during their four-match winning streak that finished in Auckland.

While Hammett left his first-five and fullback unchanged for this week, he made a host of moves elsewhere from the side that lost to the Blues.

Four switches have been made in the forwards, while exciting halfback TJ Perenara has been moved to the reserves bench in favour of Chris Smylie who has earned a rare start.

In the pack, prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen will start, while Dane Coles and Jeremy Thrush return from injury to claim spots in the tight five, and openside flanker Jack Lam will make his first run-on appearance of the season.

Lam played from the bench against the Blues but the Hurricanes are keen to manage youngster Ardie Savea, who has been rested after making back-to-back starts at No 7. Karl Lowe has joined the bench as loose forward cover.

"He's come back from a long-term injury," Hammett said of Lam, who had knee surgery last year. "He's built back, he's played three development games and then come on last week and I thought he had some pretty good impact and he knows the group fairly well so from that perspective he's been good. We'll see how long he goes but he's a really tough rooster so there's no doubt he'll give everything while he's out there."

Despite making a raft of changes, Hammett denied they were taking the Force lightly, who are coming off a 16-14 upset win over the Crusaders in Perth last week.

"I think it's a hardened and more experienced side."

Loose forward Victor Vito is still out with a tight calf but Hammett said he could make his return on April 26 when the Hurricanes host the Stormers in Palmerston North.

Veteran prop Ben May was also unavailable for selection this week with what Hammett described as "prop's elbow" but the ailment won't keep him out for long.

Coles took a knock to the eye at training today at a wet and windy Rugby League Park in Newtown and was sent for scans but more will be known on his condition tomorrow.

Hurricanes: Beauden Barrett, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (c), Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Tusi Pisi, Chris Smylie; Faifili Levave, Brad Shields, Jack Lam, Mark Reddish, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Reserves: Motu Matu'u, Reggie Goodes, James Broadhurst, Karl Lowe, TJ Perenara, Reynold Lee-Lo, Andre Taylor

- APNZ

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