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

Rugby: Unchanged Canes 22 for Chiefs clash

Beauden Barrett has been moved from first-five to fullback. Photo / Getty Images
Beauden Barrett has been moved from first-five to fullback. Photo / Getty Images

If the Hurricanes keep their season alive and knock over the Chiefs tomorrow night, coach Mark Hammett will look back to yesterday as the time he made his best decision of the week.

Hammett has named an unchanged 22 for the match at the Cake Tin and given the shuffles that have taken place - particularly in the backline - during the past six weeks, playing alongside familiar faces could be crucial for his young side.

Beauden Barrett was moved from first-five to fullback and back, No 9 TJ Perenara was given a game on the pine, likewise Tim Bateman, while Andre Taylor fell out of favour for a couple of weeks and Tusi Pisi has dipped his toes in and out.

Reynold Lee-Lo was called upon to fill the whopping hole left at centre by the concussed Conrad Smith and although the Counties Manukau utility was quiet in last week's 39-34 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, his retention for tomorrow will give him confidence.

The equation for the Hurricanes for the rest of the season is pretty simple: Win. Languishing in ninth overall and fourth in the New Zealand conference, the Hurricanes have to nearly win all of their final five games to give the playoffs a shake for the first time under Hammett's watch.

After clearing the decks in 2011, Hammett let his side build last year and this season they should have taken the next step, particularly as they had the best squad retention of any Kiwi Super Rugby outfit heading in to 2013.

But they've struggled to compete and have given away far too many penalties, while their handling during the first weeks of the season was poor.

They've still got to meet the Chiefs twice in their final five games, while the Brumbies await in Canberra later this month and there's the small matter of playing the Crusaders in Christchurch on July 12.

It's a horror run in and one more loss would all but leave qualifying down to a mathematical chance.

The Chiefs, who have suffered an injury crisis in the midfield, are light on troops but Hammett laughed off suggestions now was the time to strike against the defending champions.

"As soon as your head space goes into that you have probably lost the game and what the Chiefs have proved, not just last year but this year, is they've continued to win under adversity and through having injury problems," Hammett said. "So we are certainly not looking at it rubbing our hands together. If we are at our best we'll get close and get somewhere near where we want to be."

Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Reynold Lee-Lo, Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Victor Vito (captain), Jack Lam, Faifili Levave, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Ben May, Ash Dixon, Ben Franks.
Reserves: Reggie Goodes, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Brad Shields, Chris Smylie, Tusi Pisi, James Marshall


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