Christmas conversation can be awkward as family separated for a long time seek common ground. Whilst putting up our Xmas tree, Club Rugby came up with a great conversation, the greatest Hurricanes XV. Who would make yours? Here is ours.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
15. Christian Cullen (85 games, 1996-2003) - Christian Cullen was widely considered the best fullback of modern rugby and was arguably the finest broken field runner to have graced the game. His records speak volumes. His 58 tests, including 51 consecutively, make him the most capped All Black fullback and he scored 46 test tries, only surpassed recently by Doug Howlett. He is the Hurricanes top try scorer and appeared in semi-finals in 1997 and 2003.
14. Tana Umaga (122 games, 1996-2007) - Aisle 13 at the Westpac Stadium is named after Umaga which really says it all about his contribution to rugby in the capital. Umaga was electric on the wing initially earning New Zealand selection in 1997, before switching to centre in 2000. Umaga was Hurricanes captain between 2003 and 2005 reaching the semi-finals twice. In 2005 Umaga became just the fourth player to bring up 100 Super rugby appearances. Umaga scored 47 tries for the franchise and was capped 74 times for the All Blacks captaining his country to a Grand Slam and Lions series win in 2005. Umaga presently coaches the Blues.
13. Conrad Smith (126 games, 2004-2015) - Conrad Smith was one of the pre-eminent centres in world rugby, and he ended his 11th and final season in international rugby in 2015 with 94 Test appearances to his name, and with two RWC winner’s medals around his neck. This after he captained the Hurricanes in 2015 to the final, ending his career with a record-equalling 126 games for his home franchise. Smith scored 24 tries for the Hurricanes, including a try in his 100th game and most famously in the last minute against the Blues at Eden Park in 2012.
12. Ma’a Nonu (110 games, 2003-2011, 2015) - Ma’a Nonu ended his New Zealand rugby career in 2015 for a stint in France as a two-time Rugby World Cup winner and the recipient of the 2015 Kelvin R Tremain NZ Rugby Player of the Year award. Initially a winger, Nonu switched to the midfield and formed one of the all-time great midfield pairings with Conard Smith. Nonu scored 48 tries for the Hurricanes and was their 100th overall player.
11. Jonah Lomu (29 games, 2000-2003) - Jonah Lomu tragically died in November 2015. He passed away suddenly, in his sleep, soon after his return from the Rugby World Cup and a subsequent family holiday post tournament. He will always be remembered as one of the game’s greats, he is the leading try scorer in World Cup history. Lomu only had a short tenure in Wellington, but endeared himself to Hurricanes fans in his very first game for the side in the very first Super 12 match played at Westpac Stadium in Wellington in 2000 against the Sharks, scoring two trademark blockbusting tries. He scored 11 tries in total despite battling nephrotic syndrome, a rare and serious kidney disorder.
10. Beauden Barrett (97 games, 2011-Present) - In 2016, Barrett scored a franchise record 223 points and then later in the season was named the World Rugby player of the year as the Hurricanes broke their title drought. With 998 points, Barrett is the Hurricanes all-time leading points scorer. His searing pace and unrivaled flair have transformed the Hurricanes from perennial underachievers to prerenal contenders.
9. TJ Perenara (96 games, 2012-Present) - It seemed preordained Perenara would become one of the preeminent halfbacks in New Zealand when as an 18-year old in 2010 he was Man of the Match for Norths in the Jubilee Cup final. In 2013, Perenara was the Hurricanes leading try scorer and the following year an All Black. Perenara’s electric running game, abrasive defense and outspoken leadership has made him one of the most important Super Rugby players. Perenara has scored 44 tries for the Hurricanes, easily the most by a halfback in the history of the competition.
8. Rodney So'oialo (101 games, 2001-2011) - Made his debut at openside flanker at the start of 2001 against the Reds but made the No. 8 jersey his own for the next several seasons, playing his 100th game for the Hurricanes against the Reds in 2010. One of the fittest and most physical players in world rugby, So’oialo’s workrate was phenomenal at his peak. Captained the Hurricanes and led from the front. Like his famous Porirua-raised contemporary Jerry Collins, So’oialo played his early rugby in the backs. He was fullback for Wellington Secondary Schools as a fifth former (year 11), before switching to the forwards.
7. Ardie Savea (65 games, 2013-Present) - In 2013 then 19-year old Ardie Savea joined older brother and All Blacks wing Julian in the Super Rugby ranks, after signing with the Hurricanes. Moving forward to 2017, Savea was the top tackler in Super Rugby with 205 stops and played 16 games scoring six tries. He has been a regular off the bench for the All Blacks since his debut against Wales in Auckland in 2016. In his first test in Wellington, Savea scored a 40-metre runaway against Wales. In 2016, Savea was a vital part of the Hurricanes title success playing 17 games and scoring five tries.
6. Jerry Collins (85 games, 2001-2008) - In June 2015, Jerry Collins tragically died in a car accident in France, along with his partner Alana Madil. He left behind a young daughter, Ayla, who was travelling with the couple at the time. Collins had announced his retirement from New Zealand rugby following the 2008 Super 14, after equalling Christian Cullen’s then record of 85 matches for the Hurricanes. Collins made his Wellington Lions debut in 1999, aged 18, only to suffer a broken leg in his sixth NPC match against Canterbury. But time was on Collins’ side, and he returned with a vengeance a year later as the young star in the Lions’ NPC winning side. A devastating defender and a powerful ball runner, Collins quickly made an impression upon his Super 12 introduction in 2001. He played the first of his 48 tests against Argentina in 2001, but had to wait almost two years to play his second. Collins appeared in three semi-finals for the Hurricanes.
5. Jeremy Thrush (110 games, 2008-2015) - In June 2013, Thrush finally fulfilled his All Black ambitions when he came off the bench against France in Christchurch. Ten years earlier Thrush had been named IRB World Under-19 of the year. Thrush was a reliable lineout jumper and trojan defender who matured into one of the most respected skippers in Super Rugby.
4. Dion Waller (65 games, 1996-2002) - Waller was a tough and consistent player who earned All Black honours in 2001 and gave terrific service to the Hurricanes over a seven-year period. A regular in the New Zealand Maori, Waller famously coached Tawa to their first Jubilee Cup win in 2013.
3. Neemia Tialata (86 games, 2004-2011) - Started on the loosehead side, but soon forged a reputation as one of the world’s leading tightheads playing 43 tests for the All Blacks. Tialata was only a powerful carrier and when he retired from the Hurricanes was the most capped prop in the franchise's history.
2. Dane Coles (100 games, 2009-Present) - Coles has changed the definition of his position. There was a time where hookers disappeared into the tight, but with the speed and skills of a flanker, Coles has become a toxic presence for opponents and now has several would-be impersonators. A dead-eye thrower, Coles was captain of the first Hurricanes team to win a Super title and is in the senior leadership group in the All Blacks.
1. Mark Allen (30 games, 1996-1998) - The founding Hurricanes captain had his career cut short in 1998 with a chronic back injury. A dynamic, ball runner with an instantly recognisable shaven head and friendly manner, Allen made his debut for Taranaki in 1988 and the All Blacks in 1993. Allen led the Hurricanes to their first semifinal appearance in 1997.
16. Norm Hewitt (66 games, 1996-2001) - Norm Hewitt was a hardworking and dynamic hooker who played 296 representative matches during a memorable first-class career spanning 13 seasons. In addition to earning 23 caps for the All Blacks spread over nine seasons, Hewitt was a stalwart of the Hurricanes, missing just one Hurricanes match in the first five years of Super 12. Shades Andrew Hore (106 games 2002-11) by a nose in this team.
17. Gordon Slater (55 games, 1997-2002) - A feature of the Hurricanes front row from 1997-2002, Slater overcame a bad compound fracture of his leg playing for Taranaki against Bay of Plenty in 1995, which could have easily ended his career. However, the Taranaki farmer is made of stern stuff and recovered to play six seasons with the Hurricanes, including two as captain in 2001 and 2002. The younger brother of former Taranaki captain Andy Slater, Gordon was regarded as one of New Zealand’s finest props and was a particularly strong scrummager. He earned a call-up to the end of season All Black tour of the UK in 1997 and played in three tour games. Three years later he made his second All Blacks tour, playing in two tests against France and one against Italy. Represented an additional seven New Zealand rep teams.
18. Jeff Toomaga- Allen (69 games, 2012-present) The first Hurricane to be selected before he has made his provincial debut. Since then, he has had a couple of injury setbacks, including a knee injury in 2013 just days after making the All Blacks training squad and another knee injury in 2014. But he has worked hard and come back to now be a part of the All Blacks squad and a key Hurricane going into 2018.
19. Paul Tito (84 games, 2000-2007) – Taranaki cult hero Paul Tito was a regular feature of Hurricanes packs over eight Super rugby campaigns, reaching 84 matches by the close of the 2007 season, the most by a Hurricanes forward at the time. One of the best lineout forwards in the country, he was always wholly committed to the cause – when the going got tough, Tito got going.
20. Chris Masoe (62 games, 2003-2008) - An all-action loose forward, Chris Masoe brought power, pace and a huge work ethic to the Hurrricanes. Former All Black Sevens star Masoe burst on to the 15s scene in 2005 for the Hurricanes and Taranaki and by season’s end was an All Black (20 Tests all up). In 2006 he joined Wellington and formed one third of the ‘bruise brothers’ with Rodney So’oialo and Jerry Collins. Moved to Castres at the end of 2008 and was soon dominating the French Top 14. Shades Victor Vito (100 games, 2009-16) by a whisker in this side through sheer impact.
21. Piri Weepu (84 games, 2004-2011) – Comes off the bench to add needed passion and punch in tight situations or to kick goals at either halfback or first five-eighth. At his peak, the player to get you out of scrape, Weepu made an immediate impact in 2004 for the Hurricanes and the Lions, making the All Blacks that year. Ended in 2011 as a RWC winner and moved to the Blues then overseas for a few seasons before returning this year. NZ Maori Player of the Year 2008. 254 points for the Hurricanes. Jon Preston (25 games, 1996-98, 300 points) the back-up in this role.
22. Alapati Leuia (49 games, 2010-2014) - Alapati Leiua was a standout Hurricanes in 2013. Following the season-ending injury at the start of the year to Cory Jane, Leiua’s contribution was highlighted by him making 15 straight starts on the wing and scoring a memorable intercept try to sink the Crusaders in Wellington. He scored an even better try the following year and was often devastating despite assuming three different places in the backline. Leaiu has been capped by Samoa.
23. Cory Jane - (121 games, 2007-present) -The classy wing with the kicking attributes and defensive assuredness to play fullback has been a mainstay of the Hurricanes for the last decade. Jane burst onto the scene in 2006 when he helped the New Zealand 7s team win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. Jane played 55 tests for the All Blacks and scored 18 tries. Jane has scored 32 tries in a Hurricanes shirt.