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Blues and Highlanders reveal teams for opening round Kiwi clash

By Online Editors

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The Highlanders and Blues have named their teams ahead of Friday night’s Kiwi derby in Dunedin.

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With Richard Buckman out with a neck injury and All Black Malakai Fekitoa now plying his trade in France, new Highlanders head coach Aaron Mauger has opted for Teihorangi Walden and Rob Thompson in the midfield. Matt Faddes is named among the reserves.

A strong point for the Highlanders will be their loose forward trio, with All Blacks Liam Squire, Dillon Hunt and Luke Whitelock starting and Elliot Dixon available off the bench.

Mauger is looking forward to his first real Super Rugby hit out as coach.

“For us this game is an opportunity for the players to put a performance on the park, throughout the preseason we have had a real focus on producing a performance that we and our supporters can be proud of.”

For the Blues, notable absences include starting flankers Jerome Kaino (ankle) and Blake Gibson (shoulder). North Harbour duo Glenn Preston and Murphy Taramai will start in the back row.

The Blues backline features plenty of star power, with All Blacks Rieko Ioane and Matt Duffie occupying the wings. Sonny Bill Williams and George Moala will man the midfield.

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However, the Auckland-based franchise is down to their third choice at first-five-eighth, with Otere Black (ACL) and Stephen Perofeta (hand) out injured. North Harbour’s Bryn Gatland will win his fifth cap for the Blues and start in the No. 10 jersey.

Head coach Tana Umaga addressed the health of his team, acknowledging the Blues “have a few players with longer-term injuries, and some with lesser injuries that could have possibly played if pushed, but this is a long season and player welfare is really important.”

In total, the Blues have eleven players unavailable for selection due to injury.

BLUES

1. Alex Hodgman, 2. James Parsons, 3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5. Scott Scrafton, 6. Glenn Preston, 7. Murphy Taramai, 8. Akira Ioane; 9. Augustine Pulu (C), 10. Bryn Gatland, 11. Rieko Ioane, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 13. George Moala, 14. Matt Duffie, 15. Michael Collins.
Reserves: 16. Leni Apisai, 17. Pauliasi Manu, 18. Michael Tamoaieta, 19. Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Sione Havili/Antonio Kiri Kiri, 21. Jonathan Ruru, 22. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 23. Melani Nanai.

Unavailable: Otere Black (knee), Blake Gibson (shoulder), Matt Moulds (knee), Dalton Papalii (hand), Stephen Perofeta (hand), Kara Pryor (ankle), TJ Faiane (calf), Jerome Kaino (ankle), Isaac Salmon (elbow), Jimmy Tupou (rib), Sione Mafileo (knee).

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HIGHLANDERS

1. Daniel Leinert-Brown, 2. Ash Dixon (C), 3. Siate Tokolahi, 4. Jackson Hemopo, 5. Tom Franklin, 6. Liam Squire, 7. Dillon Hunt, 8. Luke Whitelock; 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 11. Tevita Li, 12. Teihorangi Walden, 13. Rob Thompson, 14. Waisake Naholo, 15. Ben Smith (C).
Reserves: 16. Liam Coltman, 17. Aki Seiuli, 18. Tyrel Lomax, 19. Dan Pryor, 20. Elliot Dixon, 21. Kayne Hammington, 22. Fletcher Smith, 23. Matt Faddes.

Unavailable: Thomas Umaga-Jensen (back), James Lentjes (shoulder), Richard Buckman (neck).

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Blues and Highlanders reveal teams for opening round Kiwi clash

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