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Highlanders name team for Aaron Smith’s final home game

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

The Highlanders have made an interesting selection call ahead of Aaron Smith’s final home game in Dunedin against the Queensland Reds on Friday.

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Smith has been named at halfback ahead of his 184th appearance for the Highlanders this week. But, the Highlanders have made an especially intriguing decision at fullback.

Mitch Hunt, who has played most of the season at flyhalf, has been promoted from the bench ahead of the round 14 clash – and will start in the No. 15 jersey.

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Coach Clarke Dermody has made four changes to the starting side, including two changes in the forward pack.

Pari Par Parkinson returns to the first XV this week, while Shannon Frizell shifts from the second row back to his usual position of blindside flanker.

As for the backline, Smith will partner former England flyhalf Freddie Burns in the halves once again this week.

But the two changes come at centre and fullback, with Thomas Umaga-Jensen replacing Fetuli Paea in the No. 13 jersey.

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In their last home game of the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season, with the Highlanders will look to farewell potentially the franchises’ best-ever player with a win.

In the race for the finals, it’s also a must-win clash.

The match is set to get underway at 7.05pm NZST at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday.

Highlanders team to take on Reds

  1. Ethan de Groot
  2. Andrew Makalio
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Pari Pari Parkinson
  5. Max Hicks
  6. Shannon Frizell
  7. Billy Harmon (c)
  8. Hugh Renton
  9. Aaron Smith
  10. Freddie Burns
  11. Jona Nareki
  12. Sam Gilbert
  13. Thomas Umaga-Jensen
  14. Jonah Lowe
  15. Mitch Hunt

Replacements:

  1. Rhys Marshall
  2. Daniel Lienert-Brown
  3. Saula Ma’u
  4. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u
  5. Sean Withy
  6. Folau Fakatava
  7. Connor Garden-Bachop
  8. Scott Gregory

Not available due to injury: Vili Koroi, Marty Banks Jeff Thwaites, Josh Timu, Jake Te Hiwi, Cameron Millar, Fabian Holland, Josh Dickson, Will Tucker

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J
Jon 1 hours ago
Buoyant England travel to New Zealand full of hope but are they walking into an All Blacks ambush?

> New head coach Scott Robertson has kept only forwards coach Jason Ryan and conditioning coach Nic Gill from the previous regime *and so there is little institutional knowledge inherent in the new team.* Shows you what the English know about sport. Isn’t just fantastic that the best rugby team, or brand, on the planet has three brothers playing together? One a bull, the other a dancer, and last a .. boxer? Looks like a boxer bless him. > But Robertson has been working to fix that issue, with senior players and coaches having been regularly meeting to work out how they will operate together both on and off the field to ensure there is strong decision-making and a deep understanding of how the team wants to play. Have they? I would suggest then it is not a case of fixing things, that is not what Razor does. Razor will evolve the relationship between player and coach into a more symbiotic relationship. This wont be a coach that shouts down at his players theyre not doing good enough. I can imagine one of the first key areas he will be implementing is the respective leadership for each coaching group. Tight five, Loosies, Halves, Centers, and Back Three, will each have their own leadership team and an agile approach to the playing group relaying what they believe is happening on the training paddock, and in games. It will be a very big step to get everyone involved, able, and thinking about contributing to that process, but I believe a very beneficial one if successful. > England may have their best chance to win in 21 years, but they may also be walking into an ambush – *about to be hit* by a young, gifted, supremely physical and athletic All Blacks team coached by a man who has made every post a winner so far in his career and has this uncanny knack of getting the best out of people. Or, by a group hurting from not getting over the line and proving to everyone they are the best in the world, full of experience and cohesion, grit and motivation. You only need to look at someone like Patrick Tuipulotu to see someone with a fire under his belly from missing out on the last RWC due to injury, and having lost to this opposition in the previous one. It will be very interesting to see how this ‘Razor’ plays it. Does he stick with the traditional and protect the time honored All Black values of commitment, or does he evolve and pick the best players to win the Rugby Championship - and by association this test series - like Akira Ioane?

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