The Hurricanes must get used to life without game-breaking All Blacks winger Nehe Milner-Skudder, who has been ruled out for the rest of the Super Rugby season.
New Zealand’s breakthrough player of 2015, Milner-Skudder requires surgery on his shoulder, which will rubs him out of the All Blacks’ early Tests this year.
It was hoped the dislocation suffered during the win over the Blues in Auckland last week would only sideline the 25-year-old for a couple of weeks.
However, scan results delivered some unwanted news for coach Chris Boyd.
His place in the starting team to face the Western Force in Palmerston North on Friday is taken by veteran Test winger Cory Jane.
“Losing Nehe is a blow and obviously disappointing for him, but were really lucky in that we have a lot of depth in the outside backs,” Boyd said.
“When you can bring a 53-test All Black like Cory Jane into the team you aren’t going too bad.”
Milner-Skudder will certainly miss the ALl Blacks’ three home Tests against Wales in June and it is unclear how much rugby he will have under his belt leading into the Rugby Championship starting in late August.
The diminutive but elusive winger enjoyed a remarkable rise in 2015, advancing from Hurricanes fringe back to the All Blacks’ first choice in the No.14 jersey.
His electric running ability was evident in eight Tests last year, including several shimmering displays during the triumphant Rugby World Cup campaign.
Milner-Skudder’s loss is countered to a degree by the return to fitness this week of Hurricanes captain Dane Coles.
The All Blacks hooker has overcome a calf complaint and will make his first appearance of the season against the Force.
Jane, Coles, prop Chris Eves and flanker Vaea Fifita are four new faces in the starting team. Three forwards who started against the Blues have been ruled out with injury – flanker Brad Shields (lacerated thumb), prop Reggie Goodes and hooker Leni Apisai (both concussion).
The reserves bench features Auckland lock Michael Fatialofa, who will make his Super Rugby debut if required, and prop Ben May, who hasn’t played this year because of a shoulder problem.
Hurricanes: James Marshall, Cory Jane, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Mark Abbott, Blade Thomson, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles (capt), Chris Eves. Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Loni Uhila, Ben May, Michael Fatialofa, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson-Park, Willis Halaholo, Jason Woodward.