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Injuries force changes for Highlanders who name three debutants on bench

Scott Gregory. (Photo by Rodrigo Valle/Getty Images)

The Highlanders return to their home stadium on Friday night to play the Melbourne Rebels with a side that has remained largely unchanged over the first three matches.

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In the front row, experienced campaigner Daniel Lienert-Brown returns to the starting line-up in place of Waikato prop Ayden Johnstone.

Elsewhere in the forwards, Jack Whetton takes over at lock for Josh Dickson who left the field last week with a shoulder injury and Teariki Ben-Nicholas earns his first Super Rugby start after some impressive performances off the bench.

Ben-Nicholas’ promotion allows World Cup All Black Shannon Frizell a rest.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8-C1mvAE4b/

In the backs, Josh McKay secures the right-wing spot for this week while in the reserves it will be Highlanders’ debuts for Jeff Thwaites, Manaaki Selby-Rickit and Scott Gregory.

Head Coach Aaron Mauger is excited about the return to Forsyth Barr Stadium – especially now that Otago University has kicked off its first semester.

“It’s always good to be at home,” said Mauger, “the students are back in town and will no doubt bring a lot of colour and energy to the occasion on Friday night, our players will look to draw on that energy and get our game going under the roof.”

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Highlanders: Michael Collins, Josh McKay, Rob Thompson, Josh Ioane, Jona Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, James Lentjes (c), Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Jack Whetton, Jesse Parete, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Ayden Johnstone, Conan O’Donnell, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Dillon Hunt, Kayne Hammington, Teihorangi Walden, Scott Gregory.

– with Highlanders Rugby

WATCH: See what assistant coach Tony Brown had to say ahead of the Highlanders’ clash with the Rebels.

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