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Highlanders bring in the young guns to face the Hurricanes

By Ben Smith
Finn Hurley and Sam Gilbert of the Highlanders celebrate during the round 12 Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and Crusaders at Forsyth Barr Stadium, on May 11, 2024, in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Highlanders have promoted a number of young guns into the starting side to play the Hurricanes with a playoff spot assured.

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After a comprehensive 39-3 win over the Fijian Drua, the Highlanders secured quarter-final qualification. But they are unable to find a way into the top four, using the final regular season game to play some emerging talent.

Last year’s New Zealand U20 rep Finn Hurley has been given a start in the No 15 jersey, while current New Zealand U20 rep Matt Whaanga has been named to start at centre.

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In the halves, James Arscott will start at halfback giving Folau Fakatava a rest, while Ajay Faleafaga will start again at first five after a composed showing last week.

Loose forward Hayden Michaels is in line for his Super Rugby debut. The 22-year-old has been named on the bench.

All Black loosehead Ethan de Groot will start in what will be his 50th appearance for the club and at this level. Henry Bell will start at hooker with Jack Taylor deputising on the bench. Jermaine Ainsley anchors down the front row at tighthead, with Saula Ma’u in the reserves.

Will Tucker and Fabian Holland will lock down in the second row, while Max Hicks moves to blindside. Co-captain Billy Harmon starts at openside next to No 8 Nikora Broughton.

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Highlanders team to play Hurricanes:

1. Ethan de Groot (CC)
2. Henry Bell
3. Jermaine Ainsley
4. Will Tucker
5. Fabian Holland
6. Max Hicks
7. Billy Harmon (CC)
8. Nikora Broughton
9. James Arscott
10. Ajay Faleafaga
11. Jona Nareki
12. Sam Gilbert
13. Matt Whaanga
14. Connor Garden-Bachop
15. Finn Hurley

RESERVES

16. Jack Taylor
17. Daniel Lienert-Brown
18. Saula Ma’u
19. Tom Sanders
20. Hayden Michaels*
21. Folau Fakatava
22. Jake Te Hiwi
23. Martín Bogado

*Potential Debut

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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