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Hurricanes loosie changes fine by Shields

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/03/2017

Ardie Savea crosses the tryline against the Rebels in round two. © Mark Tantrum/Getty Images Ardie Savea crosses the tryline against the Rebels in round two. Hurricanes blindside Brad Shields has tipped All Blacks openside Ardie Savea for big things at No.8 against the Highlanders on Saturday.

The 23-year-old has played almost entirely in the No.7 jumper at Super Rugby and Test level but is more than capable of moving around, with a stint at No.8 under his belt for provincial outfit Wellington.

He also played at second-five during his high school days.

Shields, 25, will line up in his normal blindside role for the all-Kiwi derby and said Savea would serve as another weapon from the back of the Canes scrum.

He and stand-in openside Callum Gibbins would tag-team as pilferers at the breakdown, disrupting the Highlanders' flow.

"We have faith in all our players, we have players everywhere to do the job," Shields told reporters on Friday.

"Us loosies, even in the wider squad, are close together - we know how we play and each other's buttons, how to get the best from each other."

Head coach Chris Boyd said he saw the No.7 and No.8 roles in his side very similarly, and that he was keen to keep mixing up his loose forward trio.

The 12-cap Savea was intelligent and versatile enough to adapt accordingly.

"Ardie is keen to give Callum a go - he's been really good for us over a number of years and brings some experience," Boyd said.

"For us to shuffle Ardie to No.8 is not problematic in the way we play."

The Hurricanes, coming off thumping wins over the Sunwolves and Rebels, came crashing back down to earth last week with a 26-18 derby loss to the Chiefs.

Shields admitted the Chiefs' aggressive tactics had unsettled his side in the Hamilton wet, with the Canes lacking physicality at key moments.

They had worked to rectify the problem throughout the week.

"We just need to know where our A-Game is and where we can go to be in our safe zone, (as) the Chiefs rattled us a bit," Shields said.

"I don't think we turned up last Friday and put our best foot forward - we want to make amends for that."

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