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Freddie Burns to start at 10 as Highlanders make mass changes for Super Round

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Following their disappointing start to the season against the Blues in Dunedin, the Highlanders have made nine changes to their starting XV to take on the Crusaders in round two.

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The fierce South Island rivals will kick-off Super Round at Melbourne’s AAMI park at 8pm NZT on Friday, with all 12 teams set to play at the same venue over three nights.

An injury crisis has made its way through the squad, while All Black rest periods have also influenced some key changes for the Highlanders.

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Including the likes of Jona Nareki, Marty Banks and Scott Gregory, 10 players are unavailable due to injury.

Prop Jermaine Ainsley is the only forward to have retained his spot in the starting XV, while captain Billy Harmon will shift from openside flanker to the blindside.

The skipper will pack down alongside Sean Withy and rising star Nikora Broughton in the back row – Broughton captained the New Zealand Barbarians Under-20s last year.

Heralded as a future start of New Zealand rugby, Broughton is set to make his Super Rugby debut against the defending champions.

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As for the backline, the Folau Fakatava and Mitch Hunt have both been relegated to the bench following last weekend’s 40-point loss.

Instead, new-look halves pairing of Kemara Hauiti-Parapara and Freddie Burns will start in the No. 9 and 10 jerseys for the Highlanders.

Burns, who made his Super Rugby debut off the bench last weekend, rose to legendary status with the Leicester Tigers in England, and also played for the national team.

The Highlanders’ outside backs trio of Connor Garden-Bachop, Jonah Lowe and Sam Gilbert remains the same.

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Highlanders team to take on the Crusaders

  1. Ayden Johnstone
  2. Andrew Makalio
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Pari Pari Parkinson
  5. Will Tucker
  6. Billy Harmon (c)
  7. Sean Withy
  8. Nikora Broughton
  9. Kemara Hauiti-Parapara
  10. Freddie Burns
  11. Connor Garden-Bachop
  12. Thomas Umaga-Jensen
  13. Josh Timu
  14. Jonah Lowe
  15. Sam Gilbert

 

Replacements:

  1. Rhys Marshall
  2. Daniel Lienert-Brown
  3. Saula Mau
  4. Max Hicks
  5. James Lentjes
  6. Folau Fakatava
  7. Mitch Hunt
  8. Mosese Dawai

 

Unavailable for selection due to injury: Fabian Holland (knee), James Arscott (knee), Fetuli Paea (calf), Vili Koroi (knee), Marty Banks (groin), Jona Nareki (foot), Marino Mikaele Tu’u (ribs), Hugh Renton (foot), Scott Gregory (knee), Jeff Thwaites (back)

– Pres Release/Highlanders

 

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