Super Rugby Pacific: Highlanders’ big guns return for derby with Chiefs
The Highlanders have been boosted by the return of All Blacks trio Aaron Smith, Ethan de Groot and Shannon Frizell to their starting line-up for Friday’s clash with the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Smith, who is the Highlanders’ most capped player, will be determined to hit the ground running after missing his team’s opening matches of the season, which both ended in big defeats against the Blues and Crusaders.
Meanwhile, De Groot and Frizell are back in action after being rested for last week’s clash with the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The Highlanders will be without the services of Jonah Lowe (concussion) and Sam Gilbert (shoulder), who join Jona Nareki (foot) and Vili Koroi (knee) on the injury list.
That means Argentinian Martin Bogado will make his second appearance for the campaign as he starts on the right wing, while Mosese Dawai will make his first Highlanders start on the other wing.
Freddie Burns shifts to full-back
In another backline change, England international Freddie Burns moves from fly-half to full-back, with Mitch Hunt returning to the run-on side to wear the number 10 jersey, while Thomas Umaga-Jensen and Josh Timu continue as the starting centres.
In the forwards, captain Billy Harmon and Folau Fakatava are observing their All Black breaks this week, which means openside flanker James Lentjes takes over the captaincy and is joined in the back-row by Hugh Renton (number eight), who returns from injury, and Frizell.
Josh Dickson is also back at lock while on the replacements bench Leni Apisai comes in as cover at hooker after recovering from injury.
Highlanders: 15 Freddie Burns, 14 Martin Bogado, 13 Josh Timu, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Mosese Dawai, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Hugh Renton, 7 James Lentjes (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Saula Mau, 19 Fabian Holland, 20 Sean Withy, 21 Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Fetuli Paea, 23 Connor Garden-Bachop
Date: Friday, March 10
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19:05 local (06:05 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Dan Waenga (New Zealand), TBC
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