Rugby: Hurricanes keeping the faith

The Hurricanes were humbled in Canberra last weekend. Photo / Getty
The Hurricanes were humbled in Canberra last weekend. Photo / Getty

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has named an unchanged starting side to play the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday in a replay of last year's Super Rugby final.

A week after copping a 52-10 thumping against the Brumbies in Canberra, Boyd has shown his faith in his players by making just one confirmed change to his match-day 23.

Utility back James Marshall returns to the squad after missing the first round due to the arrival of his first child and will replace Otere Black in the reserves.

Nehe Milner-Skudder has been bracketed with Marshall at fullback after falling heavily on his leg in Canberra and will be monitored by the Hurricanes medical staff before a final decision is made on his availability

If Milner-Skudder is ruled out Marshall will start in the No 15 jersey with Jason Woodward coming into the reserves.

After a week of honest self-reflection, Boyd said the Hurricanes were keen to put their flat opening night performance in the rear view mirror.

"We didn't start the season how we intended to and I know the boys are hurting. They'll be going out to put in a performance they're proud of. We're up against last year's champions on their home ground, so it should be a great occasion."

Last time the two teams played each other was in the 2015 Super Rugby final, with the Highlanders winning a thrilling match at Westpac Stadium 21-14.

They played each other twice during the 2015 regular season with the Hurricanes winning on both occasions, 20-13 in Dunedin and 56-20 in Napier. Overall, the teams have played 26 times with the Hurricanes winning 14 and the Highlanders 12.

Both teams have suffered injury blows in the lead up to Saturday's match, with Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara continuing to lead his side in the absence of regular captain Dane Coles, whose tight calf muscle continues to delay his first appearance of the year.

The Highlanders will be without wing Waisake Naholo, who suffered a fracture in his leg during his side's first up loss to the Blues at Eden Park in round one.

The Hurricanes squad to play the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday,:

15 Nehe Milner-Skudder/James Marshall
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, James Marshall/Jason Woodward, Willis Halaholo.

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