Wallaby prop makes Hurricanes Super cut
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Australia prop Toby Smith along with three rookies are just some of the new 11 faces in the Hurricanes' set-up for the 2018 season.
New All Blacks hooker Asafo Aumua and his Wellington teammates, prop Alex Fidow and lock Isaia Walker-Leawere make up a freshman class small in numbers, but big in size.
Aumua and Fidow cut a swathe through defences during the Mitre 10 Cup with the Aumua's form so compelling that he was called up to the All Blacks for their Northern tour.
Walker-Leawere, a product of Gisborne Boys High School, was stamping a similar mark before cutting his provincial season short to have shoulder surgery.
Aumua, Fidow and Walker-Leawere were all members of the New Zealand Under 20s side in 2017 and represent a core of young players who have come through from within the Hurricanes region.
There are also eleven 2017 All Blacks in the squad including the halves pairing of TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett.
In addition to the established stars and Super Rugby rookies, there is a cast of players coming into the Hurricanes squad for the first time.
That group include the previously unannounced, but experienced, trio of Scottish-born Melbourne Rebels lock Murray Douglas and Counties-Manukau openside Sam Henwood, and Manawatu halfback Jamie Booth.
Booth, a member of the Hurricanes wider training squad in 2015, becomes the third halfback contracted after Tasman halfback Finlay Christie and Perenara, who recently inked a new four-year deal.
Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd said he was pleased with the mix of youth and experience through his squad.
"It's always pleasing when a group of young players emerge into the Hurricanes from within our geographical region and I think it's also notable that Ihaia West and Gareth Evans, both from Hawke's Bay, have returned to their home clubs for Super Rugby.
"I think we have a talented group of younger players, but as always experience is a key quality in any successful side and our culture will again be built around the leadership of our captain Dane Coles and the other senior players who drive that within the group,"
Commenting on the Smith's inclusion Boyd said: "To bring in a player with nearly 100 Super Rugby caps and the experience of a Rugby World Cup campaign with Australia can only be good for our group.
"I think it's a good sign that we the Hurricanes are attracting that calibre of players and I'm sure Toby will add a lot to the group in 2018,"
Hurricanes squad :
Backs: Jamie Booth, Finlay Christie, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett , Jackson Garden-Bachop , TJ Va'a, Ihaia West , Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape , Matt Proctor , Peter Umaga-Jensen, Jordie Barrett, Wes Goosen, Ben Lam, Jonah Lowe, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea.
Forwards: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves , Alex Fidow, Reg Goodes, Ben May, Toby Smith, Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, James Blackwell , Murray Douglas, Michael Fatialofa, Sam Lousi , Isaia Walker-Leawere, Gareth Evans, Vaea Fifita, Sam Henwood, Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Blade Thomson