As expected, the Hurricanes have returned the world's best player, the world's best hooker, and the 2015 rookie of the year to their starting line-up for their first home clash against the Melbourne Rebels in Wellington.

There is an altogether more authoritative look about the Hurricanes' 15 now, so it comes as a surprise when coach Chris Boyd confirmed that nine or 10 are unavailable due to injury, including luckless No 8 Blade Thomson, a clutch of crocked locks and halfbacks, concussed prop Reggie Goodes, plus Cory Jane, who has a bulging disc in his neck, meaning he was a late scratching from the Tokyo training run.

Incoming are, as planned, Beauden Barrett and captain Dane Coles, neither of whom, off the bench, were able to steer the Hurricanes to a strong, slick finish against the Sunwolves, while Milner-Skudder would have played in round one were it not for a tight hamstring.

"I'm not happy that we've got nine or 10 injuries, but what we've got I'm happy with," says Boyd. "At the end of the day, we have to learn to live without anybody. It's a physical game and you end up taking dings, so guys get thrust into different situations. While it's great to have Nehe, Beauden and Dane back, we'd back ourselves to make do with whatever we have got."


That was certainly the case in the 2016 playoffs, where the Hurricanes finished with four rookies in their tight five at stages.

The Cantabrian Reed Prinsep will have a chance to stake a claim for the No 8 jersey, especially if Thomason is ruled out long-term with his shoulder injury. Prinsep impressed, mainly in the No 6 jersey, as Canterbury won their eighth NPC Premiership in nine seasons. He wins lineout ball and should operate well in tandem with Brad Shields and Ardie Savea.

Boyd knows he cannot go through the full season with a settled 15 or 23.

"I don't think anyone will start every game this season. We need to keep our powder dry and give guys opportunities," he says.

The dreaded C word - complacency - cropped up at the media session. There is an expectation that the Hurricanes will put at least 30-40 points on the Rebels.

"I don't think we'll have problems with expectations. The biggest expectation is intrinsic, internal, so that won't be a concern," Boyd says.

The Rebels will surely be better than their lacklustre second half showing against the Blues, but they were more than competitive for the opening 40 minutes, where they were combative and industrious. Hooker Pat Leafa, the former Sacred Heart College First XV and Auckland rake, will raise his half century of appearances for the visitors.

Hurricanes: Nehe Milner-Skudder, Vince Aso, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, James Blackwell, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles (c), Chris Eves


Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Ben May, Mike Kainga, Mark Abbott, Callum Gibbins, Chris Smylie, Otere Black, Beauden Barrett