Minor changes for clash with Blues

Jackson Hemopo. Photo: Getty Images
Jackson Hemopo. Photo: Getty Images
Just minor changes have been made to the Highlanders' starting team this week for the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy match against the Blues in Dunedin on Saturday night.

All Black forward Jackson Hemopo returns at lock to partner Tom Franklin at Forsyth Barr Stadium, and Sio Tomkinson takes the place of Rob Thompson, who is unavailable for family reasons this week.

All Blacks Aaron Smith and Luke Whitelock return from injury and will start from the bench.

Having players of their calibre and experience come on towards the end of the game will be very handy, especially if the match is in the balance.

Smith injured his ankle in the round six game, ironically against the Blues. He was originally scheduled to be out for 4-6 weeks but has missed just two games during his speedy recovery.

"Nuggy and Luke have both worked incredibly hard to make themselves available and their return this week provides the team with a bit of a boost,'' coach Aaron Mauger said today.

"We are aware of the challenges the Blues will bring on Saturday, all the New Zealand conference games bring a high degree of intensity.''

The Highlanders have retained the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy since 2012. The trophy is only contestable when the game is being played at the home ground of the previous year's winner.

The game kicks off at 7.35pm.

Highlanders: Ben Smith, Matt Faddes, Sio Tomkinson, Tei Walden, Tevita Li,  Josh Ioane, Kayne Hammington, Elliot Dixon, James Lentjes, Shannon Frizell, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Tyrel Lomax, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown.

Reserves: Ash Dixon, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Josh Dicksonm, Luke Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Bryn Gatland, Thomas Umaga-Jensen.

- Staff reporter

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