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Highlanders captain Craig Newby returns from injury to lead the Highlanders in the ‘‘must win'' game against the Hurricanes at Carisbrook tomorrow night.
His experience and ability to lead from the front will help a Highlanders team that had narrow losses in its three opening matches.
Newby, who suffered a foot injury in a pre-season game, had game time in a Tens tournament at Milton last weekend and came through it without any problems.
Coach Glenn Moore is not troubled by Newby's lack of hard match play as he prepares his team for a difficult game against the Hurricanes.
‘‘It is just one of those things. He has to get back into it,'' Moore told the Otago Daily Times yesterday.
‘‘I'm sure there will be a point in the game when it gets a bit tough. We will make a call to the bench when the time arises.''
Newby's return has pushed the dynamic Adam Thomson back to the bench.
"Adam is improving and has played well. He is getting better each week,'' Moore said. ‘‘He is certainly making an impact when he comes from the bench.
‘‘We have chosen to start with Craig because he will bring us valuable experience.''
Also returning for the Highlanders is first five-eighth Daniel Bowden, who missed last weekend's 12-15 home loss to the Waratahs as he sat out a one-match suspension for a dangerous tackle against the Brumbies.
Flanker Hayden Triggs, who left the field early with an eye injury against the Waratahs last Saturday, has been sidelined.
‘‘He had surgery on his eye and can't do anything for five days,'' Moore said. ‘‘It has to be reassessed after that. He will probably be out until after the bye week.''
Aaron Bancroft is taking a full part in training now. He will play some club rugby this weekend and be available after that.
Prop Keith Cameron is being given his first chance on the bench and flanker Hoani MacDonald has returned to the bench after breaking his finger in a pre-season game.
‘‘We have got to make sure these guys are getting some game time at this level,'' Moore said.
"Prop is not a position in which you can come up to speed from club rugby. We have to make sure that if we get an injury, the guys have had sufficient game time at this level.''
MacDonald will bring a lot of experience from the bench from his past Super 14 campaigns and his time with the Junior All Blacks.
‘‘He is a quality player,'' Moore said. ‘‘I'm sure he has been frustrated by the injury that has held him out of rugby. He's raring to go.''
Wing Lucky Mulipola is back in limited training after breaking his left arm in the opening Rebel Sport Super 14 match against the Reds three weeks ago.
Medical staff said his rehabilitation is going well and he has resumed running and weight training, though not contact work. He is not expected to return to match action for six weeks.