Rotation for the Highlanders

Date published: March 30 2016

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 12: Rob Thompson of the Highlanders passes the ball during the round three Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions at Rugby Park on March 12, 2016 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)

A fresh second row and rotation in the loose forwards are the two significant changes to the starting team for the Highlanders against the Western Force on Friday in Dunedin.

Having just returned from a successful mini-tour to Australia the Highlanders will line up at Forsyth Barr Stadium with a pack that has five changes from the team that beat the Melbourne Rebels.

Alex Ainley and Tom Franklin will start at lock for the second time this season, with regular lock Joe Wheeler moving to the bench.

Elliot Dixon, who was outstanding against the Waratahs, replaces Luke Whitelock at blindside, while co-captain Shane Christie moves to the bench to make way for Dan Pryor on the openside.

Liam Coltman and Ash Dixon continue their competition for the starting hooker role with Coltman in the number two shirt this week and prop Daniel Lienert-Brown returns to the playing 23 after a week playing club rugby.

In the backs Matt Faddes returns from injury for Jack Wilson, and livewire half-back Fumiaki Tanaka has recovered from his calf strain to take the place of Josh Renton in the reserves.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Pat Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosiua Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Brendon Edmonds
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Shane Christie (cc), 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker 23 Jason Emery

Date: Saturday, April 2
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19:35 local (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant, Paul Williams
TMO: Chris Wratt

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