Injury to Aaron Smith’s likely heir allows TJ Perenara to stake claim for All Blacks selection

David Skippers
TJ Perenara warms up ahead of the Hurricanes' Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final against the Brumbies in Canberra in 2022.

TJ Perenara warms up.

Hurricanes head coach Clark Laidlaw has kept changes to a minimum for their clash against the Chiefs in Wellington on Saturday with TJ Perenara replacing the injured Cam Roigard being the only alteration to the run-on side.

Veteran All Black Perenara takes over from Roigard at scrum-half after the latter was ruled out for the rest of the campaign when he sustained a rupture to his left patella tendon during their Round Six clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

Perenara will form a half-back combination with fly-half Brett Cameron, while Jordie Barrett and Billy Proctor will line up as the centre combination again.

Exciting back three

Meanwhile, highly rated outside back Ruben Love continues as the starting full-back and an exciting back three is completed by Josh Moorby and Kini Naholo, who are the two wings.

In the forwards, captain Brad Shields starts on the blindside flank, with Peter Lakai packing down on the other side of the scrum, while Brayden Iose starts at number eight.

It’s the same again in the second-row, with Isaia Walker-Leawere and Caleb Delany lining up there while Asafo Aumua continues at hooker with All Black Tyrel Lomax and Xavier Numia the starting props.

On the replacements bench, Laidlaw has opted for a six/two forwards and backs split with Richard Judd coming in as the back-up scrum-half while Devan Flanders is also added to the matchday 23 as one of two back-row reserves alongside Du’Plessis Kirifi.

The Hurricanes are the only unbeaten team left in Super Rugby Pacific and after having a bye last weekend, they are chasing their seventh successive victory in the competition.

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Laidlaw is preparing his troops for a tough assignment against a strong Chiefs outfit, which he believes will be their biggest challenge of the season thus far.

“It’s going to be a massive battle,” he said. “The Chiefs are last year’s finalists. They’re full of very good players and coaches. They’ve got threats right across the field when they get on the front foot.

“There’s the obvious threat around Damien Mackenzie and how well he’s been playing, so we’re expecting the hardest game of the year, so we’re preparing for it.

“But the team is feeling energised, refreshed, and ready for this. It was nice to have the time off to reflect on where we’re at, and now the team has come back in with real energy and a purpose to get back on the horse as quickly as possible. We’ve had two good days of training, so it’s been good.”

Hurricanes team to face the Chiefs

Hurricanes: 15 Ruben Love, 14 Josh Moorby, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Kini Naholo, 10 Brett Cameron, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Brayden Iose, 7 Peter Lakai, 6 Brad Shields (c), 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 Caleb Delany, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Xavier Numia
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Pasilio Tosi, 19 Justin Sangster, 20 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 21 Devan Flanders, 22 Richard Judd, 23 Peter Umaga-Jensen

Date: Saturday, April 13
Venue: Sky Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19:05 local (08:05 GMT)
Referee: James Doleman (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Jono Bredin (New Zealand), Fraser Hannon (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Hart (New Zealand)

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