Rugby: Coles ruled out of Hurricanes' opener

Dane Coles has missed all three preseason games.
Dane Coles has missed all three preseason games.

Hurricanes captain Dane Coles has been ruled out of the opening round of the Super Rugby season after suffering a minor calf strain in training.

After recovering from a hamstring injury to be this morning named at hooker against the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday, Coles will now be replaced by debutant Leni Apisai while TJ Perenara will assume the captaincy.

Coles, who had missed all three of the Hurricanes' preseason matches due to either injury or unavailability, suffered the strain in the closing stages of the team's captain's run in Wellington today.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd named a powerful line up to take on the Brumbies with blindside Brad Shields returning from a foot injury to join No 8 Victor Vito and openside Ardie Savea in the loose trio.

Shields is the only change to the side that started last Friday's 74-7 preseason win over the Crusaders in Blenheim.

Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso get the nod in the hotly contested midfield vacated by Hurricanes greats Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith, with Willis Halaholo providing back up from the reserves.

Laumape and Aso will be two of five players making their Hurricanes debut in Canberra along with reserve prop Loni Uhila and former Blues player Jamison Gibson-Park.

Last time the two sides met was in the 2015 Super Rugby semifinal in Wellington where the Hurricanes won 29-9 to end a five year losing streak against the men from Canberra.

The rivalry between the two sides is traditionally tough and they have split their last ten matches five wins each.

Boyd said he was satisfied his side were in a good space after riding through some injury disruptions during the preseason.

"There are still a couple of guys on the sidelines, but I'm more than happy with the squad we will run out against the Brumbies.

"The guys have put in some hard yards over the preseason and they've worked very hard.

A lot of the guys put their hands up against the Crusaders last week in Blenheim, but we know that won't count for much if we can't carry that momentum into the season proper."

Utility back James Marshall was the only fit player unavailable for the first match of the season after choosing to stay in New Zealand with his wife for the pending arrival of their first child.

The Hurricanes squad to play the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday, February 26 is:

15 Nehe Milner-Skudder
14 Cory Jane
13 Vince Aso
12 Ngani Laumape
11 Julian Savea
10 Beauden Barrett
9 TJ Perenara (c)
8 Victor Vito
7 Ardie Savea
6 Brad Shields
5 Mark Abbott
4 Blade Thomson
3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen
2 Leni Apisai
1 Reggie Goodes

Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves, Loni Uhila, Vaea Fifita, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson-Park, Otere Black, Willis Halaholo.

- NZ Herald

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