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Liam Squire to make long-awaited return for Highlanders

By Online Editors
Liam Squire. (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

Liam Squire is set to make his first appearance in Super Rugby this season after bing named in the Highlanders’ starting lineup for their must-win clash against the Bulls at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

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The blockbusting loose forward hasn’t featured at all for the southern franchise due to hip and knee injuries, as well as undisclosed ‘personal’ issues, but he has been named to start at blindside flanker on Friday.

Squire’s return will be a massive boost for a side desperate for a result as they search for a play-offs berth with just two games remaining in the regular season.

Currently sitting in 12th place, the Highlanders will likely need two bonus point wins and other results to go their way if they are to catapult themselves back into the top eight, with a congested middle tier of the table not helping their cause.

Joining Squire in aiding the Highlanders’ quest for a quarter-final spot, though, is the return to the starting side of Tevita Li and Jackson Hemopo, both of whom were ruled out of the club’s unsuccessful tour to South Africa last month due to injury.

Li is joined in the back three by Waisake Naholo and fullback Josh McKay, who gets a massive starting opportunity in the injury-enforced absence of Ben Smith.

Regardless of whether the Highlanders make the play-offs or not, this week’s match will likely be Naholo’s final match at Forsyth Barr Stadium for the franchise of which he debuted for in 2015, as he prepares to depart to the English Premiership to link up with London Irish.

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Since then, he has gone on to win a Super Rugby title, make his debut for the All Blacks, win a World Cup, and set a franchise record for most tries in Super Rugby with 41 five-pointers to his name.

The match is also being used as a farewell for the long-serving Smith, who will leave to France following the World Cup to play in the Top 14 for Pau.

While a hamstring injury has ruled him out of playing in this match, he could be available to make his return and play his final ‘home’ match next week against the Waratahs at Rugby Park in Invercargill.

The duo are among a raft of high-profile players leaving the club at the end of the season, including Squire (NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes), Luke Whitelock (Pau), Jackson Hemopo (Mitsubishi DynaBoars), Tyrel Lomax (Hurricanes) and Marty Banks (NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes), all of whom are playing this weekend.

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Highlanders team to face the Bulls: 1. Ayden Johnstone, 2. Liam Coltman, 3. Tyrel Lomax, 4. Jackson Hemopo, 5. Tom Franklin, 6. Liam Squire, 7. James Lentjes, 8. Luke Whitelock (c), 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Josh Ioane, 11. Tevita Li, 12. Sio Tomkinson, 13. Rob Thompson, 14. Waisake Naholo, 15. Josh McKay.

Reserves: 16. Ash Dixon, 17. Sef Fa’agase, 18. Siate Tokolahi, 19. Josh Dickson, 20. Shannon Frizell, 21. Kayne Hammington, 22. Marty Banks, 23. Thomas Umaga-Jensen.

In other news:

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finn 4 hours ago
Why the world needs a reverse Lions tour

I think there’s a lot of reasons this wouldn’t work, but if we’re just proposing fun things how about a “World Series” held the june/july following a world cup. The teams competing each four years would be: the current world champions The Pacific Islands The British & Irish Lions The World XV Barbarians FC to ensure all teams are fairly evenly matched, the current world champions would name their squad first; then The Pacific Islands would name next, and would be able to select any pacific qualified players not selected by the world champions, including players already “captured” by non-pacific nations who would otherwise have been eligible for selection (eg. Bundee Aki); the Lions would select next; and then The World XV and Barbarians FC would be left to fight over anyone not selected. Some people will point out that 5 teams is too many for a mid-year round robin, particularly as it would be nice to have a final as well; and they would be right! But because we’re just having fun here we’re going to innovate an entirely new format for rugby, where the round robin is played in one stadium over the course of one day, with each game lasting just 40 minutes with no half time or change of ends. The round robin decides the seedings for the knockouts, which are contested by all 5 teams in one stadium over the course of one day, according to the following schedule: Knockout Round 1: seed 5 v seed 4 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Quarter Final: winner of Round 1 v seed 3 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Semi Final: winner of Quarter Final v seed 2 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Final: winner of Semi Final v seed 1 (played as a standard 80 minute rugby match) for the round robin, teams would name a 15 man starting lineup and a 16 man bench. Substitutions during games can only be made for injuries, but any number of substitutions can be made between games. The same rules apply for the finals, except that we return to having a regular 8 man bench, and would allow substitutions as normal during the 80 minute final.

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S
Simon 7 hours ago
Is the Six Nations balance of power shifting?

There are a few issues with the article. Despite somehow getting to a RWC semi final, England are nowhere near Probable status and should be swapped with Scotland on current form. France’s failure at RWC 23 has massively hit their mindset. Psychologically, they need a reset of gigantic proportions otherwise they will revert to, Top 14 first, international rugby an afterthought again. Ireland are allowed to play the way they are by less than acceptable officiating. Make no bones about it, with Easterby coaching, Ireland cheat, they break the rules at almost every facet of the game and generally referees, influenced by the media that Ireland are somehow playing the best rugby in the world, allow them. Scrums - Porter never pushes straight and immediately turns in. The flankers lose their binds and almost latch on to the opposition props. Rucks - they always and I mean always clear out from the side and take players out beyond the ball, effectively taking them out of being ready for the next phase. Not once do green shirts enter rucks from the rear foot. Referees should be made to look at the video of the game against Wales and see that Irish backs and forwards happily enter rucks from the side to effect a clearout, thus giving them the sub 3 second ruck speed everybody dreams about. They also stand in offside positions at rucks to ‘block’ opposing players from making clear tackles allowing the ball carrier to break the gainline almost every time. They then turn and are always ahead of play and therefore enter subsequent rucks illegally. Mauls - there is always a blocker between the ball catcher and the opposition. It is subtle but it is there. Gatland still needs to break the shackles and allow his team a bit more freedom to play rugby. He no longer has a team of 16 stone plus players who batter the gainline. He has to adapt and be more thoughtful in attack. Scotland are playing well but they have the creaky defence that leaks tries.

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