Hurricanes announce squad for 2014 Super Rugby season
Beauden Barrett (Photosport file)
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett says he is heartened by the provincial form of his players after confirming his squad to contest next year's Super Rugby championship.
A disappointing 2013 campaign in which the Hurricanes finished fourth in the New Zealand conference and 11th overall has led Hammett to tinker with his squad.
There are just five new faces in his 32-man group, including the return of former Hurricanes and All Blacks prop John Schwalger following a three-year stint in France.
Midfield back Hadleigh Parkes, who played for the Blues in 2012 and South Africa's Southern Kings this year, will play for a third franchise after leading Auckland in this year's NPC.
Hooker Ash Dixon is promoted from last year's wider training squad after impressing in several games for the Hurricanes last season while there are three players who will make their first forays into Super Rugby.
They are Southland midfield back Cardiff Vaega, Hawke's Bay lock Mark Abbott and first five-eighth Marty Banks, who enjoyed a prolific season for Tasman in their NPC Championship division-winning season.
Hammett says the form of Banks and and host of other players in the NPC give him reason for optimism next year.
There are 19 players from the Wellington side who were top qualifiers for NPC Premiership playoffs before losing to Canterbury in the final last weekend.
"I think the youth we had in our team three years ago have now gained a lot of experience as both international and Super Rugby players, and I'm confident that group of players will step up this season," he said.
Among the departures from last season are a Japan-bound trio - lock Jason Eaton, loose forward Karl Lowe and first five-eighth Tusi Pisi while centre Rey Lee-Lo has signed with the Crusaders.
Forwards: Mark Abbot, James Broadhurst, Dane Coles, Ash Dixon, Ben Franks, Reggie Goodes, Jack lam, Faifili Levave, Motu Matu'u, Mark Reddish, Ardie Savea, John Schwalger, Brad Shields, Eric Sione, Blade Thomson, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Victor Vito
Backs: Beauden Barrett, Marty Banks, Tim Bateman, Cory Jane, Alapati Leiua, James Marshall, Hadleigh Parkes, TJ Perenara, Matt Proctor, Julian Savea, Conrad Smith, Chris Smylie, Andre Taylor, Cardiff Vaega
Wider training squad: Chris Eves, Callum Gibbins, Adam Hill, Billy Guyton, Nehe Milner-Skudder