10 Feb 2010

Ripia gets nod at first five for Hurricanes while Blackadder holds All Blacks back

6:58 pm on 10 February 2010

Willie Ripia been has been named at first five for the Hurricanes Super 14 rugby opener against the Blues, at North Harbour on Friday night.

The rising Manawatu star Aaron Cruden has been named in the reserves while Piri Weepu will start at half-back.

In the midfield is the All Black pairing of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith.

Scott Waldrom has recovered from the injuries that denied him the chance of playing for the All Blacks last season, being named at open side flanker.

A notable absentee is number eight Rodney So'oialo.

After handing the Hurricanes' captaincy to fellow All Black Andrew Hore, So'oialo will miss the opening couple of rounds, as he spends time in the gym bulking up after a heavy workload last year.

The former Crusaders lock Michael Patterson will make his Hurricanes debut.

Meanwhile the Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder says there's a chance several of his All Blacks will start from the bench in their match against the Highlanders in Christchurch on Saturday night.

The All Blacks have only been back with their franchises for the past ten days following a Christmas break while skipper Richie McCaw isn't expected back until round four having been given extra time off.

Hurricanes team: Andrew Hore, John Schwalger, Neemia Tialata, Michael Paterson, Jason Eaton, Nick Crosswell, Scott Waldrom, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Willie Ripia, Hosea Gear, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Tamati Ellison, Cory Jane.

Reserves: Dane Coles, Jacob Ellison, Bryn Evans, Karl Lowe, Tyson Keats, Aaron Cruden