The Hurricanes are hopeful skipper Dane Coles can overcome injury to play in Saturday’s blockbuster Super Rugby semi-final clash with the Chiefs.
All Blacks hooker Coles was named in an unchanged Hurricanes team on Thursday but coach Chris Boyd has pencilled in 21-year-old Ricky Riccitelli to replace him if necessary with Leni Apisai to come onto the bench.
The influential Coles is battling to overcome a rib injury sustained in last weekend’s mauling of the Sharks and will be given till match day to pass fit.
“Colesy is improving each day and doing everything he can to get himself fit,” Boyd said on Thursday afternoon.
“We are hopeful he’ll make it to the start line but if he doesn’t, we have every confidence in Ricky and Leni to do the job for us.”
Riccitelli has appeared as a substitute in seven Super Rugby matches in 2016, while Apisai has played three games.
All Blacks winger Julian Savea remains relegated to the bench after poor form resulted in his axing from the starting XV, with Jason Woodward starting on the flank.
Boyd said he expected his side to maintain the high standards set in their 41-0 crushing of the Sharks last Saturday.
“Whoever goes out there on Saturday knows we are in for a really tough test because the Chiefs are a quality team,” Boyd said.
The Hurricanes’ previous match against the Chiefs in Wellington finished in a nail-biting 28-27 loss.
Hurricanes: James Marshall, Cory Jane, Matt Proctor, Willis Halaholo, Jason Woodward, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, Vaea Fifita, Ben May, Dane Coles (Ricky Riccitelli), Loni Uhila. Res: Ricky Riccitelli (Leni Apisai), Chris Eves, Mike Kainga, Mark Abbott, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson Park, Vince Aso, Julian Savea.