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Highlanders welcome back a handful of familiar faces for Force

By Ned Lester
Mitchell Dunshea. (Photo by Andrew Cornaga/Photosport)

Highlanders coach Clark Dermody is eager for a response from his team following a goose-egg performance against the Reds in round nine, so will be pleased to welcome a number of players back to full health this week.


Lock Mitch Dunshea is set for his Highlanders debut having joined the team from the Crusaders over the offseason and recovering from his 2023 Achilles injury. He’ll partner young Fabian Holland in the second row.

The loose-forward trio of Oliver Haig, Sean Withy and captain Billy Harmon is retained for the contest, but No. 8 Hugh Renton will make his return from injury off the bench.

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Sam Whitelock on the hurt of the 2023 RWC final

Sam Whitelock on the narrow loss to the Springboks. Watch the full interview on RugbyPass TV now.

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Welsh first five-eighth Rhys Patchell returns to the No. 10 jersey, moving Cam Millar to the bench. Jake Te Hiwi lines up outside Patchell in the No. 12 jersey for the contest, stepping in for the rested Sam Gilbert.

Connor Garden-Bachop shifts to the left wing to make way for Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens at fullback to complete the changes in the squad.

“We’re working hard to take the learnings from each of our matches forward to the next game. We have focussed on getting our fundamentals right, ensuring our set-piece is sound and our collective mindset on track,” said Highlanders head coach Clarke Dermody.


Highlanders team to face the Western Force

  1. Ethan de Groot
  2. Henry Bell
  3. Saula Ma’u
  4. Mitch Dunshea
  5. Fabian Holland
  6. Oliver Haig
  7. Sean Withy
  8. Billy Harmon (C)
  9. Folau Fakatava
  10. Rhys Patchell
  11. Connor Garden-Bachop
  12. Jake Te Hiwi
  13. Tanielu Tele’a
  14. Timoci Tavatavanawai
  15. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens



16. Jack Taylor
17. Daniel Lienert-Brown
18. Jermaine Ainsley
19. Will Tucker
20. Hugh Renton
21. James Arscott
22. Cameron Millar
23. Martín Bogado


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Flankly 15 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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