Change process well advanced

Ben Smith has already confirmed his departure post-World Cup and will likely be joined by others....
Ben Smith has already confirmed his departure post-World Cup and will likely be joined by others. Photo: Getty Images

The World Cup always signals change for the sport in New Zealand, as players head away and others rise up.

For the Highlanders, the change process is well advanced.

Sure, the Highlanders are going to lose players after this year and some of them are key men.

Ben Smith has already confirmed he is off to France while Liam Squire is believed to be heading to Japan.

Others such as Aaron Smith, Waisake Naholo and Luke Whitelock may also look overseas while Tom Franklin and Richard Buckman are signed to play in Japan again next year and are unlikely to be back with the Highlanders.

Others who may be headed offshore or pursue other avenues include Matt Faddes, Elliot Dixon and Ash Dixon.

But the franchise has been looking ahead and has players signed up for next year and beyond. It has slowly regenerated the team from the side which won the title in 2015.

Only three players from the team which took the field in the final in 2015 are starting in tonight's opening game against the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Ben Smith, Lentjes and Liam Coltman started in Wellington against the Hurricanes on that memorable night.

The franchise will look to build its future around forwards such as Tyrel Lomax, Jackson Hemopo and Pari Pari Parkinson who could blossom into franchise players.

Loose forwards Shannon Frizell and Marino Mikaele Tu'u have big futures.

Out the back there is excitement about new halfback Folau Fokotava and midfielders Sio Tomkinson and Thomas Umaga-Jensen will be looking to get more game time this season.

It is a shame for the side Tevita Nabura injured his knee for there was genuine hope he could push on to be a weapon on the wing.

That will have to wait until next year when the side will, for one thing, have a new captain.


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