Gibbins eyes Hooper's Waratahs challenge

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Lynn McConnell     06 Apr 2017     Getty Images

The Manawatu Mitre 10 Cup captain is a more than useful back-up who is carving his own way through Investec Super Rugby. But the challenge against the Waratahs is one of the more compelling with Michael Hooper one of the best players on the Australian scene at the moment..

Hooper was probably one of the better flankers on the world scene, he was fast and athletic with the ball skills of a back, Gibbins said.

"I'm really looking forward to the challenge and can't wait," he said.

Having to do without Ardie Savea, due to injury, would be tough, as they had been playing together for five years but it would give Toa Halafihi a chance off the bench and he was looking forward to seeing him get out and take his chance.

"Reed [Prinseep] has been great, he's slotted into the loose forward combinations pretty well. He's a big man, and he's come from Canterbury so he's well-schooled in rugby down there and I'm really enjoying hanging out with Reed on and off-the-field."

The Waratahs, and Australian sides, might be struggling but so far as the Hurricanes were concerned they needed to maintain their focus because the Waratahs were well capable of taking the odd chance and making life difficult.

Gibbins was also delighted with Vaea Fifita making a return to the side from the bench after doing all his return-to-play protocols in recent weeks.

"They're a big side with big men like Will Skelton and Dean Mumm, and Hooper there as well adding the pace. I think they'll look to play the physical sort of game and give it to their backs like Folau, and those guys who can run the lines and cut us up so I think it'll be physicality with a bit of speed," he said.

One of the consequences of the Hurricanes' rise in competitiveness had been the development of a forward pack which could compete in terms of physicality and against big teams like the Waratahs they needed to be physical to succeed.

"We've got a great backline so if we could set a good platform and set those guys alight we should be a long way towards playing well," he said.

The ability to surprise even their team-mates was a feature of the Hurricanes backline and when the Barrett brothers, Beauden and Jordie, came up with something it was a case of wondering where that inspiration had come from.

"They read a game pretty well and it is pretty cool to get out of a ruck and see Jordie or Beaudie running through the line and setting up a try. All you have to do is run back to halfway sometimes," he said.