Hurricanes All Blacks rushed back to battle Crusaders

Hurricanes All Blacks rushed back to battle Crusaders
By Reuters

13/07/2017 at 05:03Updated 13/07/2017 at 05:05

WELLINGTON, July 13 (Reuters) - Wellington Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has rushed all six of the players who appeared for the All Blacks in last week's third test against the British and Irish Lions into his side for their crucial Super Rugby clash with the Canterbury Crusaders.

Fullback Jordie Barrett, winger Julian Savea, centre Ngani Laumape, flyhalf Beauden Barrett, scrumhalf TJ Perenara and openside flanker Ardie Savea will all start for the Hurricanes in their regular season finale on Saturday.

Four of the six -- the Barrett brothers, Julian Savea and Laumape -- all started against the Lions at Eden Park, while Ardie Savea and Perenara came off the bench in the 15-15 stalemate that left the series drawn at 1-1.

Blindside flanker Vaea Fifita, who made his All Blacks debut as a replacement against Samoa last month, and 2015 Rugby World Cup winning winger Nehe Milner-Skudder will also start in a strong limeup at Wellington Regional Stadium.

Hooker Dane Coles, who has been out since March 18 with a succession of injuries, remains on the sidelines as he continues his rehabilitation back to full fitness.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said after the Lions test that Coles was still rebuilding his conditioning after battling leg injuries and a concussion, but might be available for the semi-finals if the 2016 champions got that far.

"He's had so much time off," Hansen told reporters. "He's had three to four months where he just didn't do anything. We've got to graduate him back into training, and full contact, and be sensible about it.

"He's totally unconditioned to play rugby, so we've got to re-condition him."

Both sides have already qualified for the playoffs but there is still plenty at stake.

The Hurricanes are currently fifth in the standings on 54 points and if they win, will only need to make a comparatively short trip to Canberra next week for a quarter-final against the ACT Brumbies.

One spot below the Hurricanes, the Chiefs (53) take on the Brumbies in Hamilton earlier on Saturday with the team that finishes sixth facing a journey to Cape Town to meet the Stormers next week.

The Crusaders are unbeaten so far this season with 14 wins and top the overall standings on 63 points but could still be overtaken by South Africa's Lions, who have 61 points and face the Sharks in the final game of the regular season.

The top qualifier is guaranteed home advantage throughout the playoffs. (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by John O'Brien)