You've got to hand it to Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett, he appears to like a challenge.

He axed All Blacks Ma'a Nonu and Andrew Hore, drove out Piri Weepu and Hosea Gear to different Super Rugby franchises, didn't fill their gaps with any blockbusting signings, but he is still looking forward to next season.

The Wellington-based franchise today unveiled the 32 players charged with restoring the faith of a disillusioned region after a disastrous 2011 campaign.

Manu Samoa first-five Tusi Pisi and inside back Tim Bateman are two of the higher-calibre recruits, while former Chiefs prop Ben May will add some grunt to a very inexperienced front row.


Journeyman halfback Chris Smylie, who arrives from the Blues, may prove to be a crafty addition, but a lot of the names need a second reading to confirm who they are.

Thankfully for Hammett and assistant coach Alama Ieremia they were able to hold on to the services of World Cup-winning All Blacks Conrad Smith, Cory Jane and Victor Vito.

"I think for us we are certainly under no illusions that this year's going to be tough,'' Hammett said.

"But for us to be competitive we are going to have to play close to our potential week in and week out. But that's an opportunity and it's exciting.

"I certainly believe that this team can be competitive. We can win games. You don't want to throw things out there but the simple fact is 15 players get selected to start a game, you get 22 in the squad so that means you've got 10 players that aren't going to play each week.''

Other players to depart from last year's squad include Serge Lilo, who will be part of the wider training group as he recovers from major knee surgery, Jacob Ellison, who has joined the Highlanders, Neemia Tialata (France), Bryn Evans (England), Aaron Cruden (Chiefs), John Schwalger (France), Laurence Corlett (not selected), Tyson Keats (Italy) and Anthony Perenise (England).

The side is light on front-row depth, with departures of long-time servants Tialata and Schwalger and their spots have been filled by May, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Reg Goodes and Tristan Moran, while Michael Bent remains from last year.

Toomaga-Allen and Goodes have never played Super Rugby, but Hammett, ever the optimist, put a positive spin on it and said most franchises around the country were light on experienced front rowers.

"I remember three to four years ago selecting Owen Franks as a No 4 [prop] and by the end of the year he was an All Black. So who's to say that one of these boys won't come through and do that.''

Pisi and Bateman won't arrive in Wellington until they have finished their commitments with their respective Japanese clubs in February, although Beauden Barrett and Daniel Kirkpatrick also offer cover at No 10.

Hammett was yet to anoint his skipper, although Vito or Smith shaped as the likely contenders.

"We are going to announce that early in the new year. There's certainly plenty of options from our perspective. Guys that have captained ITM teams. So we've just got a bit of detail to get around there. Some conversations and we'll name that then.''

The squad will assemble on November 21 for pre-season work and their wider training group will be confirmed in a fortnight.

Hurricanes squad: Beauden Barrett, Tim Bateman, Michael Bent, James Broadhurst, Richard Buckman, Dane Coles, Jason Eaton, Chris Eaton, Reggie Goodes, David Hall, Jayden Hayward, Cory Jane, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Jack Lam, Alapati Leiua, Fafili Levave, Karl Lowe, Motu Matu'u, Ben May, Tristan Moran, Charlie Ngatai, TJ Perenara, Tusi Pisi, Mark Reddish, Julian Savea, Brad Shields, Conrad Smith, Chris Smylie, Andre Taylor, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Victor Vito.