WELLINGTON World Cup-winning New Zealand outside back Nehe Milner-Skudder will make his return to Super Rugby this weekend, almost a year after a shoulder injury wiped out the entire 2016 season.
Milner-Skudder was named at fullback for the Wellington Hurricanes for their first home game of the season against the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday.
The 26-year-old missed the 83-17 victory over the Sunwolves in Tokyo with which the Super Rugby champions opened the new campaign last week because of a hamstring strain.
"I just felt it pull up a bit tight and ... it was just a feeling that I knew it'd get worse if I carried on," Milner-Skudder told reporters in Wellington on Thursday.
"I was just trying to stride out and I felt it tighten up but it wasn't too bad and I'm happy to be back this week."
Milner-Skudder injured his shoulder on March 11 last year against the Auckland Blues and required surgery which kept him on the sidelines until the pre-season.
His return at fullback - he has been used by the Hurricanes and All Blacks mostly on the right wing - meant a drop to the bench for new recruit Jordie Barrett.
Barrett's older brother Beauden returns to the number 10 jersey for the meeting with the Rebels after starting on the bench last week in Tokyo.
Captain Dane Coles also reverted to a starting role, while former Canterbury Crusaders loose forward Reed Prinsep will make his first start for the Hurricanes at number eight in place of the injured Blade Thomson.
"Dane and Beauden were always going to come back into the starting team and Nehe would have started round one if he'd been fit, so the selections certainly aren't form related," coach Chris Boyd said.
"Blade Thomson dislocated his shoulder in Japan and is having scans to determine the severity of his injury, so Reed gets an early chance to stake a claim at the back of the scrum."
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)