Super Rugby - Twin openside option for Hammett after injury concerns

A neck injury to Blade Thomson rather than a desire to shake up his game plan or selections was the reason behind naming two openside flankers to face the Otago Highlanders on Friday, Wellington Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has said.

Super Rugby - Twin openside option for Hammett after injury concerns

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Blade Thomson poses during a Wellington Hurricanes Super Rugby headshots session at Rugby League Park on January 24, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand (Getty)

Hammett made the unconventional decision to name both his openside flankers Ardie Savea and Jack Lam to start against the Highlanders in Dunedin with normal blindside flanker Faifili Levave moving to the back of the scrum.

Hammett fielded the trio for the second half of the Hurricanes' 60-27 victory over the Cheetahs last Saturday when Lam replaced Thomson and he felt it had worked well.

"Selection with Blade being ruled out has come into it a little bit," Hammett told reporters after training on Wednesday, mindful that fellow loose forwards Brad Shields and Victor Vito were also still on the sidelines with long term injuries.

"But we have known all along that we can play that (if needed)."

Hammett's early season selections were heavily scrutinised by pundits and fans with Samoa international Lam preferred over the 20-year-old Savea before he gave last year's All Blacks' tourist his first start against the Cheetahs.

With the selection of two openside flankers, Hammett was aware the loose forward balance could be upset, particularly given the destructive impact the bruising Levave provided on the blindside side of the scrum, though he was unconcerned.

"The great thing about Jack is that he has played a lot of eight and six," Hammett added of his decision to give the blindside flanker role to Lam.

"The way he plays seven isn't always the traditional seven role anyway so I think he covers that (blindside) role better than an out-and-out seven would."


The clash with the Highlanders is the Hurricanes' first against a fellow New Zealand side this season, having played three South African teams and Australia's ACT Brumbies.

Hammett acknowledged there had been slight change in their emphasis to handle the different challenges the Highlanders would pose.

"There is a change in focus in that we have played three South African sides and the Brumbies, so different in terms of technical requirements.

"Difference in size too. The Highlanders are technically very good whereas the Africans' size allows them to play power (rugby) so if you're not ready for that you can get tripped up."

Hammett was forced to make two other changes to the starting side with fullback Marty Banks replacing James Marshall, who suffered a toe injury, while All Blacks lock Jeremy Thrush has been released to attend a wedding.

All Blacks winger Cory Jane, who missed last week's game with a broken nose, also rolled his ankle at training this week and was ruled out, Hammett said.

The Highlanders have recalled veteran lock Brad Thorn after he missed four weeks with a rib injury he sustained in their 29-21 victory over the Auckland Blues in their opening game.

"I was at home with the wife and that has some benefits but it has been good getting back into training," the World Cup winner told reporters in Dunedin.

"I feel pretty darn good otherwise I wouldn't be playing anymore," the 39-year-old said.

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