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Hurricanes refreshed for title defence

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/11/2016

Regeneration continues at the Super Rugby-champion Hurricanes, who have unveiled seven new faces for the defence of their title next year.

All five New Zealand teams unveiled their squads on Wednesday, with surprises in short supply as most significant player contracts are announced well in advance.

The most exciting of the Hurricanes' four uncapped selections is utility back Jordie Barrett, younger brother of All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett, the central figure in the Hurricanes' maiden title this year.

New Zealand age group standout Jordie, good enough to be named an apprentice on the All Blacks' northern hemisphere tour, has the versatility to fill gaps left by three departing Hurricanes - fullback James Marshall, winger Jason Woodward and midfielder Willis Halaholo.

The only other significant loss is All Blacks loose forward Victor Vito.

Taranaki pair Toa Halafihi (No.8) and Kylem O'Donnell (halfback) are rookies, along with 18-year-old Wellington fullback Peter Umaga-Jensen.

A notable selection is one-Test All Blacks lock James Broadhurst, who starred in their 2015 run to the final but who hasn't played for more than a year because of concussion issues.

All Blacks hooker Dane Coles retains the captaincy.

New Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has named 10 players new to the team, including six in a refreshed back division.

Three-Test All Blacks centre Seta Tamanivalu and his nephew, 19-year-old winger Manasa Mataele both shift south from Taranaki.

Tim Bateman returns after two seasons in Japan, named among a first five-eighth group which no longer features Fijian international Ben Volavola.

There has been a sizeable overhaul at the Blues although most of their new faces have Super Rugby experience.

All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams and Augustine Pulu arrive from the Chiefs while versatile Crusaders forward Jimmy Tupou is an important signing in a squad light on experienced locks.

Outside back Lolagi Visinia is a notable omission, with coach Tana Umaga introducing speedy backs in Jordan Trainor, Stephen Perofeta and Michael Collins, while Declan O'Donnell is picked up after three years in the Super Rugby wilderness.

The bulk of the Chiefs squad is back, along with returning Samoan international Tim Nanai-Williams following two seasons in Japan.

There is no room in a squadron of quality loose forwards for 2016 squad members Johan Bardoul, Tevita Koloamatangi and Ma'ama Vaipulu.

The Highlanders field the most settled squad, with the biggest area of change coming at prop.

Brendon Edmonds, Josh Hohneck and Ross Geldenhuys aren't back, with Chiefs tighthead Siate Tokolahi and Guy Millar of the Western Force filling gaps.

A surprise omission is their Japanese international halfback Fumiaki Tanaka.

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