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Laumape back for Hurricanes start

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/07/2016

<span style="font-size:13px;">&nbsp;Ngani Laumape is to return to the Hurricanes midfield&nbsp;</span> © Rob Jefferies/Getty Images  Ngani Laumape is to return to the Hurricanes midfield  Former Warriors rugby league player Ngani Laumape returns to the Hurricanes midfield in their only starting change to face the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Centre Matt Proctor has succumbed to a hamstring injury sustained in last week's 28-17 Super Rugby win over the Waratahs in Sydney last Saturday, resulting in a shuffle.

Willis Halaholo moves out one spot for the final-round match on Saturday, with Laumape coming in at second five-eighth.

It is a third start together for the two players of Tongan heritage, with the midfield having been a revolving door this season in the wake of the departure of All Blacks greats Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu to French clubs.

Vince Aso is also sidelined with a calf complaint.

Laumape came off the bench for 55 minutes in Sydney, having missed a game with a groin strain.

The 23-year-old former schoolboy rugby star has impressed with his power in a first season back in the 15-man code after three seasons as an NRL utility back with the Warriors.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd is comfortable with the combination for a crucial game which may have a major bearing on the final New Zealand conference standings.

"They haven't had a huge amount of time together as a midfield pairing but they have both been heavily involved all season, so I don't think they will have any problems coming together," Boyd said.

"Willis has been in good form for us all season, he's got good footwork and a good passing game and Ngani is very powerful, so its potentially an exciting duo."

The only other squad change is on the bench, where Wes Goosen is promoted to take Laumape's place.

The Hurricanes have already qualified for the play-offs and a bonus point win could see them top the Kiwi conference.

The final play-off schedule won't be known until after the Lions play the Jaguares on Sunday (NZT) in the final match of the regular season.

Hurricanes: James Marshall, Cory Jane, Willis Halaholo, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, Vaea Fifita, Chris Eves, Dane Coles (capt), Reggie Goodes. Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Ben May, Loni Uhila, Mark Abbott, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson Park, Wes Goosen, Jason Woodward.

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