Planet Rugby

Preview: Hurricanes v Reds

24th April 2014 22:21

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Reds lock Rob Simmons battling with Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush

In form: Hurricanes

The Reds will be fully refreshed after their bye week as they look to wrestle their way back into the play-off shake-up with victory at the Hurricanes.

Five defeats out of eight so far this season has not been the form Richard Graham was craving from his men in his first campaign in the hot seat.

However, they are still not out of contention for the 2014 knock-out stages as in one of the closest tournaments in recent years, they can recover, starting with this match at Westpac Stadium before they travel to the Blues and then host the Crusaders at Suncorp in winnable fixtures.

The Hurricanes are in fact the example of what the Reds require right now as Mark Hammett's side sit in seventh position, only four points off New Zealand conference leaders the Chiefs after wins over the Crusaders, Bulls and Blues in recent weeks. Could they for once not be bridesmaids?

Led by the combination of TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett, the 'Canes are maturing as a side while the shift of Alapati Leiua to inside centre is paying dividends. Factor in the improvement in form of Jack Lam, Andre Taylor and their front-row and this is a dark horse.

Speaking of that front-row that has seen Jeffery Toomaga-Allen improve his reputation, the return of Ben Franks to loosehead prop is significant. Before missing out last week, Franks was the Hurricanes' top tackler, which shows just how much work he is getting through.

James Slipper and Ben Daley are also hard-working props and we expect the whole Reds pack will need to put in a shift around the field on Saturday, with this 'Canes squad having moved teams around so far this season. The width in the home gameplan could well be the deciding factor in this one, which is surprising to say when the opposition is the Reds, who for years had arguably the most attractive style under former head coach Ewen McKenzie.

But, as they say, times change and with Hammett moving on at the end of the Super Rugby season, what better send-off could his side give him than being at the business end in July. Judging from how they have been performing and also the return of Brad Shields from injury in the near future, there's definitely a chance of the Hurricanes being in the mix. The first hurdle however as they look to make it four in a row, is this Saturday against the Reds.

Form: The Hurricanes are on a three-game streak - four wins in their last five looking further back - so enter confident. Meanwhile, the Reds come into this on the back of a bye, which they'll hope has ironed out the flaws in their recent losses against the Force and Brumbies.

Previous results:

2013: Reds won 18-12 in Brisbane
2011: Hurricanes won 28-26 in Wellington
2010: Hurricanes won 44-21 in Wellington
2009: Hurricanes won 37-28 in Brisbane

Prediction: Home field advantage and form points in one direction. Hurricanes by 10!

The teams:

Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Tim Bateman, 23 Matt Proctor.

Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Fainga'a, 23 Rod Davies.

Date: Saturday, April 26
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

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