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Hurricanes braced for breakdown storm in Super Rugby showdown

rugby09 May 2024 07:00| Ā© AFP
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Hurricanes Ā© Getty Images

Hurricanes head coach Clark Laidlaw anticipates a back-row battle royal when his team faces a trio of All Blacks loose forwards in Saturday's Super Rugby top-of-the-table clash with the Blues.

The Hurricanes head to Auckland's iconic Eden Park stadium just one point ahead of the second-placed Blues with four rounds left of the regular season.

To add extra spice, the Blues have won all of their last seven games since falling to a 29-21 defeat at the Hurricanes in March.

A key contest in Auckland will be at the breakdown. The Blues have picked a powerful back-row made up of All Blacks trio Dalton Papali'i, Hoskins Sotutu and Akira Ioane.

Laidlaw knows his loose forwards, Hurricanes captain Brad Shields, live-wire flanker Peter Lakai and No 8 Brayden Iose, won't back down.

"It'll be a physical battle up front, the breakdown will be hotly contested," Laidlaw told reporters Thursday.

He has named six forwards on the Hurricanes bench, including breakdown experts Devan Flanders and Du'Plessis Kirifi, who Laidlaw plans to use as impact players.

"Having guys like Du'Plessis and Devon to come on really adds to our game.

"I like having a really strong team on at the end of the field, to keep the momentum and the performance up for the full 80 minutes," Laidlaw added.

Both teams come into the showdown with identical records of nine wins, one defeat.

The Hurricanes have not won at Eden Park since 2019.

Hurricanes skipper Shields said having back-row firepower in reserve will help the visitors.

"Having fresh legs available puts an emphasis on our pack to be really physical," he said.

The New Zealand-born England international is relishing playing at Eden Park, which has hosted three Rugby World Cup finals ā€“ two men's, one women's.

"It's a fortress and the Blues are really good at home," Shields added.

"You have got some of the best players, potentially, in the competition going at it. It's gonna be good rugby."

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