Above: Matt Proctor in hot form for the Hurricanes in early 2017.
The return from injury for midfield backs Matt Proctor (Oriental-Rongotai) and Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wainuiomata) are positive features of the opening Hurricanes squad of the season to play the Crusaders in Greymouth on Friday, kick-off 5.30pm.
Both spent the second half of 2017 out of the game and have been named to start together in the Hurricanes midfield in an extended 32-player squad for Friday’s first encounter of the season and first of two pre-season matches (not counting the Brisbane 10s next weekend) before the season opener against the Bulls in Pretoria on Sunday 25 February (NZT).
The return to full fitness of Wellington duo Proctor and Umaga-Jensen is a huge positive to the Hurricanes backs contingent already brimming with confidence with last year’s twin finds of the year Ngani Laumape (All Blacks) and Jordie Barrett (injured) still to come back.
Proven talent Proctor, closing in on 50 competition matches for the Hurricanes and a try-scorer on debut against the Stormers in 2013, was one of the Hurricanes best players throughout the opening stages of 2017, before missing seven weeks with concussion He played for the Maori All Blacks against the British and Irish Lions in June, but a shoulder injury sustained in that fixture sidelined him for the second half of the year.
Likewise Peter Umaga-Jensen underwent a shoulder operation and this will be his first competitive game back for over eight months. His twin brother Thomas subsequently starred for the Wellington Lions in the NPC.
Other Wellington players of note in this 32-player team to play the defending champions include former Hutt Old Boys Marist Jubilee Cup winner Chase Tiatia (Bay of Plenty), Old Boys University lock-flanker Will Mangos, Northern United first five-eighth Jackson Garden-Bachop, who played for the Rebels last year,and Petone halfback Carlos Price. 2016 New Zealand Secondary Schools captain Brayden Iose, out of Manawatu is also in the squad.
The Hurricanes squad to meet the Crusaders is:
15 Trent Renata
14 Jonah Lowe
13 Matt Proctor
12 Peter Umaga-Jensen
11 Ben Lam
10 Jackson Garden-Bachop
9 Jamie Booth
8 Gareth Evans
7 Brayden lose
6 Brad Shields
5 James Blackwell
4 Sam Lousi
3 Alex Fidow
2 Ricky Riccitelli
1 Toby Smith
Reserves; James O'Reilly, Chris Eves, Tolu Fahamokioa, Ben May, Murray Douglas, Will Mangos, Liam Mitchell, Sam Henwood, Finlay Christie, Carlos Price, Ihaia West, Wes Goosen, Jason Emery, Vince Aso, Julian Savea, Chase Tiatia, Fraser Armstrong.
Crusaders: George Bridge, Manasa Mataele, Braydon Ennor, Tim Bateman (captain), Jone Macilai, Mike Delany, Bryn Hall, Pete Samu, Billy Harmon, Ethan Blackadder, Quinten Strange, Hamish Dalzell, Mike Alaalatoa, Ben Funnell, Ezekiel Lindenmuth. Reserves: Harrison Allan, Andrew Makalio, Reuben O'Neill, Ben Morris, Will Tucker, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Tom Christie, Jordan Manihera, Jack Stratton, Brett Cameron, Tima Faingaanuku, Nathan Vella, Dylan Nel, Richard Judd, Dallas McLeod, Tomas Aoake.