WELLINGTON (Reuters) - All Blacks loose forward Ardie Savea will make his comeback from knee reconstruction surgery on Sunday, adding additional excitement to the Wellington Hurricanes' Super Rugby Aotearoa opener against the Auckland Blues.
Savea injured his knee during the Rugby World Cup in Japan last October and did not play in Super Rugby before it was shut down in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
"I'm really excited to see him unleashed," Hurricanes lock Scott Scrafton told reporters on Friday about Savea's return. "He hasn't played for a long time, but at training he has been roaring. I know he's ready."
Savea's return, from the replacements bench, has only heightened an already tempting clash against the Blues with Beauden Barrett expected to make his debut for the Auckland-based side after he spent nine seasons with the Hurricanes.
Hurricanes coach Jason Holland said they were well aware of Barrett's game-breaking ability but he also fired a shot at the two-time World Player of the Year.
"We know how Beaudy plays," Holland said. "We have seen him play really well for the Hurricanes and seen him play poorly for the Hurricanes, so we have an idea about how we can put him under pressure."
Holland added that Barrett's younger brother Jordie, who has already been ruled out of the match with an "unstable shoulder", was a "day-by-day" decision on when he might play in the 10-week competition.
"We just have to make sure that he gets that rehabbed properly," Holland added. "We're not risking him.
"Hopefully he's good to go next week."
Officials were predicting an almost full house at Eden Park on Sunday having sold more than 34,000 tickets by Thursday.
Super Rugby Aotearoa, the first professional rugby union competition to resume and the first sports event to have no crowd restrictions since the COVID-19 lockdown, starts on Saturday when the Otago Highlanders host the Waikato Chiefs.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Christopher Cushing)