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Hurricanes look for reboot against Highlanders

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Monday, March 13, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Assistant coach Jason Holland said the ankle injury Milner-Skudder suffered would rule him out for Saturday's contest with the Highlanders but beyond that it was a case of waiting to see what the medical prognosis was.

While Milner-Skudder was disappointed he was in positive mood about getting the injury right and was still contributing to the side off-the-field.

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Holland wasn't being drawn into likely advantages in striking the Highlanders when Waisake Naholo and Lima Sopoaga were also out with injuries and he added the Highlanders might take the same view about the injuries the Hurricanes had.

"The Hurricanes-Highlanders is going to be massive whatever is happening so we have got no illusions about what a challenge that is going to be," he said.

Reflecting on the loss to the Chiefs he said the home team had won the big moments in the game.

And with that in mind they wanted better execution of their kicking against the Highlanders in order to apply pressure from the field positions they wanted.

"We're going to hone in on our skills and make sure our set piece and our defence is right, the set piece and our 'd' is going to be massive against the Highlanders," he said.

In preparation for the Highlanders it was a case of being honest about what the Hurricanes didn't get right at the weekend. Most of the time the players were aware what went wrong and it was a case of coaches and players being on the same wavelength and where their improvements needed to be, he said.



One area that has offered clear improvement is the developing skill of second five-eighths Ngani Laumape.

Laumape said he had been putting in a lot of hard work with support from the coaching staff and felt he was getting to know the game a lot better.

"I feel that last year I was just free-styling a little bit but, definitely this year, I'm just doing my homework and talking with the boys and I feel like I am really starting to enjoy my rugby," he said.

Coming into the squad in much better shape than he had been when first coming in a year earlier had been a big help while getting around TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett and Matt Proctor had also been a factor in getting to know his role a lot better.

While he had been influenced by former Hurricane and All Black Ma'a Nonu when he was moving through the school grades, he didn't think anyone would get close to what he brought to the game during his career.

He enjoyed playing between Barrett and Proctor in midfield and that was reflected in his greater enjoyment.

"Twelve months ago I probably didn't know where I was supposed to be on the field but I feel like now I know where I need to be. For me it's just doing my homework early on in the week so I know where to be on the weekend," he said.

That involved preparing for opponents like the Highlanders midfield of Rob Thompson and Malakai Fekitoa but the greatest concentration was on what the Hurricanes plan was.