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Preview: Hurricanes v Rebels

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Thursday, March 2, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Round 2: Hurricanes v Rebels, 5.15pm, Saturday March 4, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Tale of the Tape
The split between the sides on the basis of first round games couldn't be more obvious after the 83-17 Hurricanes win over the Sunwolves and the Rebels 18-56 loss to the Blues. While the Rebels have more experience to call on this week that doesn't compare with the Hurricanes who are bringing back Dane Coles, Beauden Barrett and Nehe Milner-Skudder. It's no race on those terms.

Homecoming watch
Rebels first five-eighths Jackson Garden-Bachop returns to home base and if the attention paid him by the critics in Melbourne last week is anything to go by, he is under a fair bit of pressure to provide some guidance for his side this season. That's a heavy demand when uncertain supplies of ball will be his lot from a pack that was well out-played by the Blues last week. It won't get any easier against many of his old Mitre 10 Cup team-mates in Wellington. And then there's the added pressure of landing goals, something that wasn't achieved last week in Melbourne.

3X Factor
Anyone welcoming returning players of the capabilities of Dane Coles, Beauden Barrett and Nehe Milner-Skudder is going to have their confidence boosted skyhigh. What makes prospects even more ominous for the Rebels is the fact than when Coles and Barrett were introduced from the bench last week, the flow of the game diminished. That wasn't their fault but they will be grumpy and they will be looking to turn that around. While Milner-Skudder's return means any errant ball sent in his direction could be coming back with trouble drizzled all over it.

Rebel yell
Rebels coach Tony McGahan has decided its throw in at the deep end stuff for his rugby league convert Marika Koroibete's debut. At least he won't have to face Julian Savea, but Vince Aso will still be a handful. Meanwhile Wallaby James Hanson's return from a hip and leg injury to the hooking berth offers some vital experience for the front row against Coles while Mitch Inman will look to shore up the leaky midfield which allowed Rieko Ioane a hat-trick of tries last week, with Reece Hodge.

Need to know
Rebels tighthead prop Laurie Weeks will become the most capped Rebels player against the Hurricanes in Wellington. He will make his 74th appearance for the side to break the record set by foundation Rebel Luke Jones. Posting his 50th cap for the side is hooker Pat Leafa, the ninth player to achieve the feat for the side while capping a busy night for the honours board painter will be lock Lopeti Timani who will make his 50th Super Rugby appearance, having earlier played 19 games for the Waratahs before joining the Rebels in 2014.

Teams:

Hurricanes: 1.Chris Eves, 2.Dane Coles (captain), 3.Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, 4.James Blackwell, 5.Michael Fatialofa, 6.Brad Shields, 7.Ardie Savea, 8.Reed Prinsep, 9.TJ Perenara, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Ngani Laumape, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Vince Aso, 15.Nehe Milner-Skudder.

Substitutes: 16.Ricky Riccitelli, 17.Ben May, 18.Mike Kainga, 19.Mark Abbott, 20.Callum Gibbins, 21.Chris Smylie, 22.Otere Black, 23.Jordie Barrett.

Rebels: 1.Cruze An-Nau, 2.James Hanson, 3.Laurie Weeks, 4.Steve Cummins, 5.Lopeti Timani, 6.Jordy Reid, 7.Colby Fainga'a, 8.Amanaki Mafi, 9.Nic Stirzaker (captain), 10.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 11.Tom English, 12.Reece Hodge, 13.Mitch Inman, 14.Marika Koroibete, 15.Jack Debreczeni.

Substitutes: 16.Pat Leafa, 17.Tom Moloney, 18.Tyrel Lomax, 19.Culum Retallick, 20.Jake Schatz, 21.Ben Meehan, 22.Sione Tuipulotu, 23.Ben Volavola.