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

Rugby: Injury casts doubt on Coles' ABs campaign

Hurricane Dane Coles has been ruled out of tonight's match against the Western Force with a fractured eye socket and could be sidelined for up to six weeks.

Coles, an All Black tourist last year, took a knock to his eye at training on Wednesday and scans revealed the disappointing outcome.

Hurricanes head coach Mark Hammett said: "It's disappointing for Colesy, but there is plenty more time in this competition.

"He is a positive guy and extremely hard-working. He can still do a heck of a lot for the team, even though he won't be involved in contact sessions, and we will be making the most of his experience and contribution."

Motu Matu'u, who was on the reserves bench, will step into the starting jersey for the Hurricanes, while Ash Dixon will come on to the pine.

The All Blacks play three home tests against France in June and this injury could put Coles in doubt for Steve Hansen's squad.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are trusting first-five Tusi Pisi and halfback Chris Smylie to guide the team around Westpac Stadium tonight.

The pair are best mates, have played together since their days in the 1st XV at Massey High School in Auckland as well as a couple of seasons for Harbour in the national provincial competition.

Tonight will mark the first occasion they have started a game as a halfback and first-five combination for the Hurricanes. Both were signed as insurance policies for young guns TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett last year, but Smylie suffered a season-ending right shoulder injury in the final warm-up game and missed the entire 2012 campaign.

"It's really good to finally come here after a couple of years being apart and get an opportunity to play with each other," Pisi said.

"We have big expectations on each other so if you see us arguing a bit on the field then that's probably why."

Five-test All Black Barrett has again been installed to start at No15, despite having piloted the team to a 4-2 start at first-five before being moved to fullback for last weekend's 28-6 loss to the Blues.

Pisi played No10 on Saturday to accommodate Barrett's shift and coach Hammett said the pair deserved another opportunity to reprise those roles again tonight.

Tonight's game shapes as a pivotal one for the Hurricanes, who are in eighth spot on the Super rugby standings.

They have two more home games before they head away to South Africa and need to wrap up wins against the Force and the Stormers, whom they meet in Palmerston North next week, as they vie to keep pace with the top six.

Hurricanes v Force
Wellington, tonight, 7.35

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

- NZ Herald

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