Elliot Dixon has earned his first start for the 2018 season after a man of the match performance against the Crusaders.

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Dixon, who scored a try off the bench last week, links up with fellow All Blacks Luke Whitelock and Dillon Hunt to form the loose forward trio.

Three-cap All Black Dixon replaces the injured Liam Squire, who broke his thumb last weekend.

Hawkes Bay loose forward Marino Mikaele-Tu’u joins the bench after Dixon’s elevation to the starting lineup.

Highly touted prop Tyrel Lomax gets his first start in a Highlanders jersey at tighthead, while young Otago five eighth Josh Ioane has been named on the bench and will make his Highlanders debut if called upon.

Highlanders head coach Aaron Mauger said, “The game against the Hurricanes is another opportunity to test ourselves against top quality opposition.”

“We are well aware of the threats the Hurricanes possess but we look forward to meeting the challenge with our game and the strategy within it.”

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HIGHLANDERS

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

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