Four All Blacks return to Highlanders starting XV against Reds

Aaron Mauger. Photo: Getty Images
Aaron Mauger. Photo: Getty Images
Four All Blacks have come back into the Highlanders starting side but Liam Squire will continue to cool his heels.

Winger Waisake Naholo, halfback Aaron Smith and flankers Dillon Hunt and Shannon Frizell will all play their first games of the season tomorrow night as the Highlanders take on the Reds in their first home game.

Smith, Hunt and Frizell came off the bench last week in the first-up win over the Chiefs while Naholo did not play, taking one of his enforced All Black rests.

Jackson Hemopo is moved to lock to replace Pari Pari Parkinson and Frizell takes his place on the blindside flank.

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said flanker Liam Squire had a slight problem with a hip.

Mauger said the side for the Reds game had been selected a couple of weeks ago as part of a plan for the start of the season as players came back to training at different times.

Squire's injury was described as a bit of a ''hip grumble'' by Mauger yesterday and the loose forward was expected to be available in a week or two.

''We just decided to give him a bit more time that he needs to make sure that when we introduce him back in he is ready to go,'' Mauger said.

''We're still trying to work out our best line-up. We wanted to give guys the opportunity to play and some of those guys who played last week really put their hand up.

''Some of the guys who have come into the squad this week I'm sure will do the same. There will be some nice headaches in a couple of weeks' time.''

Lock Tom Franklin, who is coming off a season in Japan, is back training and may come into consideration for next week. Richard Buckman, also returning from Japan, may be available in a couple of weeks time.

Marty Banks will be on on the bench with Josh Ioane again starting as the three first five-eighths get into audition mode.

Bryn Gatland was set to come off the bench last week but did not manage to get on the park because of the closeness of the game.

''Bryn will get his time ... part of the plan was to get the flyhalves involved in the first few weeks.''

ock Jack Whetton will make his Highlanders debut should he get some time off the bench while Matt Faddes is the outside back cover.

The Reds return to the stadium under Brad Thorn for the first time.

Mauger said the performance of the Reds reflected the coaching of Thorn.

''I think he has really transformed them. Made them a tough team to play against.

''They compete really hard for everything. That was Thorny's style of play and transferred that into his coaching philosophy.''

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