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Highlanders targeting rival franchise 10

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Highlanders targeting first-five from rival New Zealand franchise

The Highlanders are looking to make a bold move to shore up their first-five eighth stocks, attempting to sign away a 10 from another New Zealand franchise, according to a report by Stuff.

With longtime starter Lima Sopoaga moving on from the franchise last year, the Highlanders signed Blues first five Bryn Gatland, along with fan favourite Marty Banks, to compete with Josh Ioane this season. All three have received game time this season but the Highlanders haven’t settled on one guy.

The report suggests the Highlanders are closing in a multi-year deal to sign Crusaders’ first-five Mitch Hunt, who himself is limited for game time behind All Black Richie Mo’unga. The Tasman Mako has come through the New Zealand under-20’s and Crusader system and now looks to defect south to further his career.

After Canterbury’s pivot Brett Cameron was given an All Blacks cap late last year against Japan, Hunt’s standing in the pecking order seems to be under threat from the third choice 10.

Hunt is set to receive a rare start against the Sharks on Friday night, however with Mo’unga recently coming to terms with a multi-year deal with NZR, going forward, those opportunities would seem to be just as few and far between.

The Highlanders may have to shed some of their playmakers to accommodate Hunt, and Banks might just be that man as he comes off-contract at the end of the year and has been injured with a broken foot suffered against the Hurricanes. Bryn Gatland, who hasn’t had much game time to impress, had his own season-ending injury after coming off the bench during the Highlanders’ 52-0 thumping of the Sunwolves in Tokyo last Friday.

Head coach Aaron Mauger remained coy about pursuing Hunt but did confirm the franchise is looking for a first five-eighth.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland announces World Cup squad:

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Highlanders targeting first-five from rival New Zealand franchise