Preview: Waratahs v Hurricanes

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Saturday, May 3, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Saturday, May 3, 2014, 21:40pm (NZT)

Head to Head: Played 18, Waratahs 8, Hurricanes 10

Last time: Waratahs 29-41 Hurricanes (April 6, 2013)

Walking wounded: The visitors are another team with a light injury toll so far this season, and coach Mark Hammett has been able to select the same starting XV, with the only change being halfback Billy Guyton’s inclusion on the bench, replacing Chris Smylie.

The Waratahs medical concerns are also minimal, and the return of blockbusting number eight Wycliff Palu from injury will see the hosts wield perhaps the heaviest pack seen so far this season.

Form: The Hurricanes are in blistering touch, winning their last four, while they are by some margin the most dangerous attacking team in the competition. It isn’t just about their firing backs, the Wellington based franchise has a form pack that has ground down their recent opposition thanks to the likes of Dane Coles, Ben Franks and Jack Lam.

The Waratahs, despite boasting the same number of wins (five) as the Canes, have lost four of their last seven. They have however won six of nine clashes in the rivalry in Sydney.

Key players: It is hard to go past the two half-centurions in Julian Savea and the unsung lock James Broadhurst, two players in a team where essentially every man is contributing to the Hurricanes’ fortunes. It is however Alapati Leiua who is emerging as the primary weapon, his shift to the midfield has been a big part of the form shift.

For New South Wales their big pack hasn’t been as dominant as the coaching team would like, while the likes of Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale have been dangerous, but finishing has cost the team in recent weeks. Scavenger Michael Hooper will be an important player if the Hurricanes ball retention skills are to be questioned.

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (c), 5 Jacques Potgieter, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.

Replacements (two to be omitted): 16 Tola Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendon McKibbin, 23 Jono Lance, 24 Alofa Alofa, 25 Cam Crawford.

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 Billy Guyton, 22 Tim Bateman, 23 Matt Proctor.