Smith to miss game versus Sunwolves

Ben Smith
Ben Smith
The Highlanders will be without their talisman for a match shaping as a potential banana skin for the side.

But the Highlanders are not leaving anything to chance for their match against the Sunwolves on Friday night in Tokyo.

It is the side's first - and most probably last - game against the Sunwolves in Japan

The side was scheduled to arrive in Tokyo last night but captain Ben Smith has stayed at home, the Highlanders deciding his second rest will come in this game.

Under All Black rules this year, All Blacks must have two games off during the season.

Smith did not play any pre-season games and then did not play in the third game of the season against the Rebels. So the game against the Sunwolves will be his second game off, which should keep him clear to play the rest of the Super Rugby season.

The Highlanders have four games in a row after the match in Tokyo before a bye at the start of June.

Under the rules, players cannot play more than six games in a row.

If Smith does not miss a game in the next three weeks, he will be unable to play both games in South Africa which are shaping up as critical matches for the team.

The match against the Crusaders on March 16, which was canned because of the Christchurch mosque attacks, does not count as a rest game, as players were still involved in the build-up to it.

Rested players are not allowed to take part in any team activities during the week before the match.

With Smith rested, the captaincy will be taken by No8 Luke Whitelock, and Josh McKay or Matt Faddes is likely to start at fullback.

The Highlanders have taken 15 forwards and 10 backs to Tokyo - young prop Ayden Johnstone has not made the trip. Prop Sef Fa'agase has gone, though, and is likely to make his Highlanders debut on Friday night.

McKay has played just the one game for the Highlanders this year, on the wing in the loss to the Rebels early last month.

Faddes can play fullback but with few options in the outside backs, he may continue to play on the right wing, meaning McKay could start at fullback.

Josh Ioane played at fullback when Smith was absent against the Rebels but that is unlikely to be repeated, as Ioane will be preferred at first five-eighth.

Midfielder Rob Thompson comes back into the squad after missing last week because of family reasons.

The Sunwolves are coming off a narrow loss against the Hurricanes in Tokyo. The side was ahead for a long period of the match but went down 29-23.

The Highlanders match was originally scheduled to be played on Saturday but has been moved forward to Friday night and will kick off at 10pm (NZ time).

 

Highlanders

 

Sunwolves squad
Daniel Lienert-Brown, Sef Fa’agase, Ash Dixon, Ray Niuia, Liam Coltman, Siate Tokolahi, Tyrel Lomax, Josh Dickson, Jackson Hemopo, Tom Franklin, Shannon Frizell, James Lentjes, Dillon Hunt, Elliot Dixon, Luke Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Kayne Hammington, Josh Ioane, Bryn Gatland, Tei Walden, Sio Tomkinson, Rob Thompson, Tevita Li, Matt Faddes, Josh McKay.

 

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