Two of three big guns are back for the Hurricanes in their Eden Park appointment with the Blues tonight, but they have lost the competition's most in-form and unheralded centre in Matt Proctor.

That midfield battle, in which Sonny Bill Williams and Rieko Ioane are against Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso, should be pivotal.

Laumape has been so good for the Hurricanes that he should be giving Williams more to think about than just his own special jersey and when to offload.

Aucklander Aso has scored seven tries on the wing for the visitors, but moves in to accommodate the return of Julian Savea to the left wing, Wes Goosen's strong form and the Proctor injury, a minor concussion.


Cory Jane drops to the bench. Ben Lam, who has been terrorising club opponents for Tawa in the Swindale Shield, cannot even get a gig.

Ardie Savea returns to the No8 jersey after a calf strain and will give Steven Luatua and the Blues plenty to ponder with his allround game.

Dane Coles, conversely, has a calf injury to exacerbate his knee injury. His prolonged absence may just be giving Steve Hansen some discomfort.

From a Hurricanes' perspective, his replacement Ricky Riccitelli has proven a reliable and rugged performer.

Hurricanes assistant coach John Plumtree is not expecting anything other than a tight contest, despite the clear gap between the second and fifth ranked teams in the New Zealand conference.

"Well, both sides like to play good, open rugby, so hopefully it will be dry up there and we get a good track, but you never know. We'll have to adjust and need to kick better and be more aggressive in our defence," he says.

"They like to play with width, but they also have some really good carriers, so defensively we'll have to be on the job, with Sonny Bill and Rieko there."

The Blues will be acutely aware that they cannot again be second best in the second half, as they were against the Crusaders and Highlanders last weekend.

Footage from Sky.

Their imposing Eden Park home record is looking shaky, after a poor display against an undermanned Highlanders last month and a loose win over the Force.

Their season hangs in the balance, with a bye and visits to Canberra and Sydney on the immediate horizon. But coach Tana Umaga has kept faith with his XV from last weekend, Williams the only change.

"We are under no illusions that the Hurricanes will pose a tough test and we will need to be at our best for the whole 80 minutes.

"We continued to make progress last week and for much of the game played well but could not quite get across the line. We need to continue that improvement in all aspects, especially our decision-making at critical moments."

The surprise was the benching of George Moala. Rieko Ioane, despite an explosive hat-trick against the Rebels, does not appeal as a top allround centre, where Moala is more comfortable.