Weepu ruled out for Hurricanes
February 12, 2009
Piri Weepu has withdrawn from the Hurricanes squad due to an ankle injury © Getty Images
Piri Weepu has withdrawn for the Hurricanes' Super 14 opener against the Waratahs after failing a fitness test. Weep had been named at fly-half for the game in Wellington on Saturday but has now pulled out with an ankle injury.
All Blacks scrum-half Weepu was preferred at No.10 but now Daniel Kirkpatrick will debut in the opening-round clash at Westpac Stadium which pits together two competition heavyweights. Coach Colin Cooper has opened the door for Alby Mathewson - a late All Blacks tour call-up last year - at half-back after an impressive New Zealand Cup campaign with Wellington.
Indeed, the backline almost entirely comprises that Wellington back division, with Tamati Ellison named at centre in place of the injured Conrad Smith (groin). Four players uncapped at Super 14 level have been named, all in the pack.
That includes both hookers - the starting Dane Coles and reserve Ged Robinson - while reserve loose forwards Karl Lowe and Api Naikatini could also make their debuts in the competition. Four others who have previously played for other sides have also been named, including reserve winger David Smith who played for the Hurricanes in 2007 and the Blues in 2008.
The starting pack features two 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. Reserve midfield back Jason Kawau dons the Hurricanes jersey for the first time after having played for the Highlanders in 2006 and 2007.
The team is captained by Rodney S'oialo at No.8 and includes nine Grand Slam-winning All Blacks who toured Hong Kong and Europe last year.
The Waratahs received a boost ahead of the clash when hooker Adam Freier was passed fit to play but he will start on the bench. Freier left the field during the first half of the Waratahs 17-14 victory over the Brumbies in last Thursday's trial, however he has proved his fitness and has been confirmed in the No.16 jersey for the Hurricanes clash.
Jeremy Tilse has been named as the reserve prop having earlier been bracketed with 2008 debutant Dan Palmer, while uncapped hooker Damien Fitzpatrick will travel as the 23rd man to Wellington.
"You slog it out pretty hard in the pre-season and you're itching to get that first round match under your belt so I'm glad I've got through this niggle and am good to go for Saturday," said Freier."We're taking a really strong squad to Wellington and everyone's really keen to kick off 2009 with a win. The Hurricanes are always tough, but we're ready for the challenge and can't wait to get there."
In the only other change to the side named earlier in the week, Daniel Halangahu and Tom Carter have swapped jerseys, with Halangahu now playing in No.21, Carter in No.22.
Hurricanes: Cory Jane, Zac Guildford, Tamati Ellison, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Dan Kirkpatrick, Alby Mathewson, John Schwalger, Dane Coles, Neemia Tialata, Bryn Evans, Jason Eaton, Faifili Levave, Scott Waldrom, Rodney So'oialo (capt),
Replacements: Ged Robinson, Jacob Ellison, Jeremy Thrush/Api Naikatini, Karl Lowe, Willie Ripia, Jason Kawau, David Smith
Waratahs: Sam Norton-Knight, Lachie Turner, Rob Horne, Timana Tahu, Lote Tuqiri, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Al Baxter, Dean Mumm, Will Caldwell, Ben Mowen, Phil Waugh, Scott Fava
Replacements: Adam Freier, Jeremy Tilse, Chris Thomson, Wycliff Palu, Brett Sheehan, Daniel Halangahu, Tom Carter, 23rd Man - Damien Fitzpatrick