19 Feb 2009

Hurricanes ring the changes but Weepu not at first five

10:49 pm on 19 February 2009

The Hurricanes have opted against playing All Black Piri Weepu at first five for their Super 14 match against the Highlanders in Wellington on Friday night.

Weepu's been bracketed at halfback with Alby Matthewson, subject to passing a fitness test on his injured ankle.

That means Daniel Kirkpatrick retains his place in the starting fifteen despite expectations Weepu would play first five.

A Weepu-Matthewson lineup would have given the Hurricanes a much stronger looking back combination after Kirkpatrick struggled to run the game in his Super 14 debut against the Waratahs.

All up the Hurricanes have made five changes to last week's starting lineup.

Centre Tamati Ellison will captain the side for the first time in the absence of the suspended Rodney So'oialo, who's replaced at number eight by Victor Vito.

Jason Kawau, will start at second five with Ma'a Nonu dropping to the reserves.

Nonu's joined on the bench by All Blacks teammate Conrad Smith, who missed last week's Waratahs match with a groin injury.

Jeremy Thrush starts at lock in place of Bryn Evans while David Smith replaces Zac Guildford on the wing.