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Hayward gets his start

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Sportal.co.nz     11 Mar 2011     Getty Images

The Taranaki second five-eighths was due to play against the Crusaders in place of the suspended Ma'a Nonu two weeks ago before the devastating earthquake rocked Christchurch and forced the Investec Super Rugby match to be cancelled and the points shared.

But with Nonu's suspension being carried over to this Saturday's match against the Chiefs in Wellington, Hayward will at last pull on the yellow jersey.

"It's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me but it was understandable with happened down in Christchurch that they didn't want to play that week," the 23-year-old said.

"I'm just lucky enough that I get to start this week and it's lucky enough for me that Ma'a's suspension got extended as well. It's unlucky for him but from my point of view it's good. Saturday just can't come quick enough for me. I'm really looking forward to the game."

It has been a pretty rapid elevation for Hayward, who was signed as part of the Hurricanes wider training group, after spending a couple of seasons with the Highlanders.

"I was a bit disappointed I didn't make the squad but I made the wider training group and I'm still in the coach's eyes and I can still impress him," said the midfielder, who was one of the form players in pre-season and only missed out on a full contract because cover was needed for injured halfback Piri Weepu and openside flanker Karl Lowe in the main squad.

"I'm just looking forward to Saturday and hopefully I can get out there and put a good performance on the paddock."

He has a sizeable challenge in front of him, in the shape of former Hurricanes stalwart Tana Umaga who makes his return to the Westpac Stadium turf for the first time since 2007.

"He's going pretty well, especially at the age he is," said Hayward of the 37-year-old veteran who was in impressive form in the Chiefs' win over the Rebels last weekend.

"It will give me an indication of where I'm at. It's always good to be tested."

Hayward's selection is one of five changes to the starting line-up made by coach Mark Hammett following the defeat to the Highlanders in round one.

With Hosea Gear still recovering from a shoulder injury Andre Taylor takes over on the left wing, while Chris Eaton gets the nod ahead of Tyson Keats at half-back.

In the pack, Neemia Tialata replaces Michael Bent and Serge Lilo gets a start at openside flanker with Jack Lam switching to the blindside in place of Mark Reddish.

"Not only is it having two opensides out there to compete at the breakdown and also to tighten that defensive line, but [the selection] is also on form," Hammett explained.

"They've played well. We had our internal hit-out and they both deserve their spot."

The loose forward battle should be an intriguing one as the Chiefs are a very mobile unit and have also gone for two openside flankers in Scott Waldrom and Tanerau Latimer and both No.8s, Victor Vito and Liam Messam, are known for their ball carrying skills.

The breakdown was an area of concern against Highlanders where the Hurricanes came up woefully short. But it is something that has been addressed in the hiatus since their last match.

"We thought we'd covered that area pretty well in pre-season but the Highlanders showed us that it was a weakness of ours," admitted Lam. "We didn't bring that aggression that the Highlanders had. So for the last two weeks we've just been hammering that breakdown area. We should see the results this weekend."

Hurricanes: 1. John Schwalger, 2. Andrew Hore (c), 3. Neemia Tialata, 4. James Broadhurst, 5. Jason Eaton, 6. Jack Lam, 7. Serge Lilo, 8. Victor Vito, 9. Chris Eaton, 10. Aaron Cruden, 11. Andre Taylor, 12. Jayden Hayward, 13. Conrad Smith, 14. Julian Savea, 15. Cory Jane.

Replacements: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Anthony Perenise, 18. Mark Reddish, 19. Faifili Levave, 20. Tyson Keats, 21. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22. Charlie Ngatai.