Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles has recovered from his hamstring strain and will lead a new-look team in their opening Super Rugby match against the Brumbies.
Coles missed all three of the Hurricanes pre-season matches, but will be front and centre for the start of the 2016 season in Canberra on Friday.
Coach Chris Boyd has named a strong line-up to take on the Brumbies, with blindside Brad Shields returning from a foot injury to join No.8 Victor Vito and openside Ardie Savea in the loose trio.
Coles and Shields are the only two changes to the side that started last Saturday’s 74-7 pre-season win over the Crusaders in Blenheim.
Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso get the nod to fill the spots vacated by Hurricanes greats Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, and are two of five players making their debut.
The others – hooker Leni Apisai, prop Loni Uhila and former Blues player Jamison Gibson-Park – will be making their impact from the bench.
Coles says team is well primed after an excellent pre-season.
“The Brumbies are about as tough a start as you can get, so we know we’ll need to be at the top of our game to get a result over there.”
The two teams last met in the 2015 Super Rugby semi-final, the Hurricanes winning 29-9 to end a five-year losing streak against the Brumbies.
Boyd is confident his side are in a good space after riding out pre-season injury disruptions.
“There are still a couple of guys on the sidelines, but I’m more than happy with the squad we will run out against the Brumbies.”
Hurricanes: Nehe Milner-Skudder, Cory Jane, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Mark Abbott, Blade Thomson, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles (captain), Reggie Goodes. Reserves: Leni Apisai, Chris Eves, Loni Uhila, Vaea Fifita, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson-Park, Otere Black, Willis Halaholo.