Rugby: Coach likely to ring changes but key men will start

Jamie JosephAdam Thomson on the openside flank, Nick Crosswell on the other side of the scrum and Ben Smith at fullback are the main features of the Highlanders side named to take on the Blues in Balclutha tomorrow.

The side will undoubtedly change throughout the match, which will be played in four 20-minute quarters, but it is a game that undoubtedly carries plenty of importance for the southern franchise.

New coach Jamie Joseph will want to start his coaching career with a solid performance and has picked some of his key men to start the game.

Colin Slade, who looms as a big player for the franchise, will wear the No10 jersey and will have Wellington youngster Shaun Treeby and Counties-Manukau centre Siale Piutau outside him.

Thomson has the ability to play all three loose forward positions and with versatility bound to be a key for national selection, will be keen to show his ability in the No7 jersey.

Crosswell gets a start after a disrupted season last year with injuries and will want to make the most of his time on the field.

Jamie Mackintosh and Jason Rutledge provide the experience in the front row and David Te Moana will pack down beside them.

The Highlanders have five props in their squad and with one of them a captain, the other four players are in a tough battle to get the other starting position.

Ben Smith gets first crack at trying to fill the shoes of the departed Israel Dagg, with the likes of Robbie Robinson and Telusa Veainu bound to get time off the bench.

The Blues have plenty of firepower in their backline with former national sevens representative Sherwin Stowers keen to link up with former All Blacks Benson Stanley and Luke McAllister.

Former Otago players Chris Smylie, Toby Morland and Aaron Bancroft will all be wearing the Blues' colours. The match will be refereed by Aucklander and former Otago whistler Jonathon White.


HIGHLANDERS v BLUES
- Tomorrow, 12.30pm, Balclutha.

HIGHLANDERS: Ben Smith, James Paterson, Siale Piutau, Shaun Treeby, Kade Poki, Colin Slade, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu, Adam Thomson, Nick Crosswell, Joe Tuineau, Jarrad Hoeata, David Te Moana, Jason Rutledge, Jamie Mackintosh (captain).
Reserves: Brayden Mitchell, Bronson Murray, Halani Aulika, John Hardie, Josh Bekhius, Alando Soakai, Sean Romans, Lima Sopoaga, Matt Saunders, Kendrick Lynn, Telusa Veainu, Robbie Robinson.

• BLUES: Jared Payne, Lachie Munro, Benson Stanley, Luke McAlister, Sherwin Stowers, Stephen Brett, Chris Smylie, Chris Lowrey, Luke Braid, Peter Saili, Filo Paulo, Kurtis Haiu, Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau.
Reserves: Ash Dixon, Pauliasi Manu, James King, Sean Polwart, Mat Luamanu, Toby Morland, Winston Stanley, Nafi Tuitavake, Auvasa Faleali'i, Gareth Anscombe, Aaron Bancroft.