All Blacks halfback Piri Weepu will run on at first five-eighths for the Hurricanes against the Waratahs in Saturday’s season opener at Westpac Stadium.
Rugbyheaven NZ reports that Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper has opted to continue with the pairing of Weepu at 10 and Alby Mathewson at halfback used by the Wellington Lions during the 2008 Air New Zealand Cup.
Cooper has named a 22-man side that includes four uncapped players at Super 14 level and four more who have previously played for other sides, including winger David Smith who played for the Hurricanes in 2007 and the Blues in 2008.
Dane Coles makes his competition debut in the starting XV at hooker with fellow new boy Ged Robinson his back-up off the reserves bench.
The starting forward pack features two more first time Hurricanes in lock Bryn Evans, who played for the Blues last year, and blindside flanker Faifili Levave who was a Chief in 2008.
The team is captained by Rodney So’oialo at No.8 and includes nine Grand Slam winning All Blacks who toured Hong Kong and Europe at the end of last year.
Should they take the field, Dan Kirkpatrick, Karl Lowe and Api Naikatini will also make their Super 14 debuts. Backs reserve Jason Kawau dons the Hurricanes jersey for the first time after previously playing for the Highlanders in 2006 and 2007.
The 2009 season opener between the Hurricanes and Waratahs will be the 15th Super rugby clash between the two sides since 1996, with the Hurricanes in front 8-6 on the head-to-head ledger.
Saturday’s match will be the eighth between the sides in New Zealand, with the Hurricanes having previously won six of their seven encounters.
HURRICANES: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Ma’a Nonu,11 Hosea Gear, 10 Piri Weepu, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Rodney So’oialo [c], 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Dane Coles, 1 John Schwalger.
Reserves: 16 Ged Robinson 17 Jacob Ellison 18 Jeremy Thrush/Api Naikatini 19 Karl Lowe 20 Dan Kirkpatrick 21 Jason Kawau 22 David Smith.
WARATAHS: 15 Sam Norton-Knight, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Timana Tahu, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Fava, 7 Phil Waugh [c], 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Will Caldwell, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Reserves: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Chris Thomson, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 22 Tom Carter.