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Twin changes to Hurricanes tight five

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/03/2017
Loni Uhila, Beauden Barrett and Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes celebrate the win during the Super Rugby Semi Final match between the Hurricanes and the Chiefs at Westpac Stadium. © Simon Watts/Getty Images Loni Uhila, Beauden Barrett and Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes celebrate the win during the Super Rugby Semi Final match between the Hurricanes and the Chiefs at Westpac Stadium.

The Hurricanes have made a double-tweak to their tight five for the clash of the unbeaten Super Rugby heavyweights, against the Chiefs.

Mobile prop Loni Uhila returns from a calf strain for Friday's much-anticipated match in Hamilton after missing the first two rounds.

Lock Mark Abbott is also in the starting XV in a straight swap with James Blackwell, who drops to the bench.

The more experienced Abbott missed the opening match against the Sunwolves for personal reasons.

Loosehead Uhila's return pushes Chris Eves onto the reserves, forcing Mike Kainga out.

Coach Chris Boyd has otherwise retained the same group who smashed the Rebels 71-6 last week, mirroring the defending champions' dominance in the opening-round 83-17 rout in Tokyo.

"Loni and Abbo have both had slightly delayed starts to the season but they've performed really well through the pre-season and now they're ready to enter the fray," Boyd said.

"That's not a reflection on the guys who they've replaced but just what we feel will be the best combination for this week."

The Chiefs have also notched two wins, in intense New Zealand derby matches.

They overcame the Highlanders 24-15 in Dunedin and the Blues 41-26 in Auckland, in performances which impressed Boyd.

"We are under no illusions what the Chiefs will bring to the table. We expect a really tough contest up front and at set piece and they also have plenty of threats in the backs."

It is the first meeting of the teams since last year's semi-final, won 25-9 by the Hurricanes in Wellington.

First five-eighth Beauden Barrett set up one try and scored another as the home side powered past opponents showing signs of fatigue at the end of an injury-tainted campaign.

Hurricanes: Nehe Milner-Skudder, Vince Aso, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, Mark Abbott, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles (capt), Loni Uhili. Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves, Ben May, James Blackwell, Callum Gibbins, Chris Smylie, Otere Black, Jordie Barrett.

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