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Nonu returns for Highlanders

21st March 2013 05:53

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Ma a Nonu Highlanders debut 2013

Back from injury: Ma'a Nonu

All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu returns as one of three changes to the Highlanders starting XV for Friday's clash with the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Nonu featured in the Highlanders' opener against the Chiefs in Dunedin on February 22 but has missed their last two matches due to a knee injury. He replaces Phil Burleigh who is amongst the replacements.

The other changes are all amongst the forwards. Liam Coltman makes his first start for the Highlanders with both Andrew Hore and Brayden Mitchell on the injured list.

Josh Bekhuis returns to lock to partner Brad Thorn, who captains the team and Jarrad Hoeata moves to blindside flanker while Joe Wheeler drops to the bench.

Jason Rutledge returns to the Dunedin-based franchise, as injury cover for Hore and Mitchell, after a short stint with the Hurricanes. And Frae Wilson is named amongst the Highlanders' replacements for the first time.

Meanwhile, Highlanders stalwart Chris King will run out onto Waikato Stadium tomorrow night for his 100th Super Rugby appearance - his 84th for the Highlanders.

King made his debut for the Highlanders in 2005 and will join a small and illustrious group of centurions, with only Anton Oliver (127 games) and Jimmy Cowan (108 games) also to reach 100 games while playing for the southern franchise.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn (c), 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Joe Wheeler, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Frae Wilson, 21 Lima Sopoaga, 22 Phil Burleigh.

Date: Friday, 22 March
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19:35 (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

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