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The majority of the match day squad that came from behind to beat the Chiefs in Hamilton a fortnight ago has been retained by the Highlanders.
There has, however, been a backline re-shuffle that has seen the return of All Blacks playmaker Josh Ioane to the starting side for the first time since Super Rugby Aotearoa kicked off.
Fully recovered from a niggling groin injury, Ioane made his first appearance for the Dunedin club off the bench in the last-gasp 33-31 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton, and has now been named in the No. 10 jersey for the first time this year.
His re-implementation in the pivot role forces his replacement Mitch Hunt, who has found himself in career-best form at this level over the past few weeks, to revert back to fullback, as he did when Ioane was brought onto the field against the Chiefs.
That in-game re-shuffle also sparked a change in the midfield, with fullback Michael Collins moving into centre – the position of which he started his career in – in place of the out-of-sorts Rob Thompson.
Collins will now start at No. 13 to form a new midfield partnership with Sio Tomkinson, with Mauger highlighting the benefits the 27-year-old will bring from the position.
The only other alteration to the team comes on the bench, where third-string first-five Bryn Gatland fills the void left by Ioane in the No. 22 jersey.
The selection ploy means Otere Black will remain on the bench for the Blues as Matt Duffie keeps his place at fullback.
In total, head coach Leon MacDonald has made just one change to his starting side from the team that dispatched the Chiefs 21-17 at Eden Park last week.
13-test All Blacks prop Karl Tu’inukuafe makes his first start for the Blues in nearly five months after recovering from an ankle injury, taking the place of the in-form Alex Hodgman.
The ex-Crusaders front rower has instead been demoted to an otherwise unchanged bench.
Michael Collins' contract with the Highlanders is up at the end of the season. His next move could signal exactly where he plans on playing international rugby.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 31, 2020
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