Former All Blacks outside back Nehe Milner-Skudder has been named to play for the Highlanders for the first time since signing with the Dunedin franchise last year.
The 30-year-old will start at fullback for the Highlanders against his former side, the Hurricanes, in their pre-season clash in Alexandra on Friday.
The match will be Milner-Skudder’s first Super Rugby match of any kind – pre-season, regular season or post-season – since he last played for the Hurricanes in their 2018 semi-final defeat to the Crusaders.
The 2015 World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year isn’t the only big name set to play on Friday, with the franchise’s two All Blacks Aaron Smith and Shannon Frizell named to start at halfback and blindside flanker, respectively.
Smith will co-captain the side with hooker Ash Dixon. Along with Frizell, all three will make their first outings in Highlanders colours for the year after they missed last week’s 28-26 Farmlands Cup loss to the Crusaders in Temuka.
Outside back Solomon Alaimalo, one of the Highlanders’ biggest signings in an off-season that was filled with big-name acquisitions, is also in line for his first appearance for the team since moving south from the Chiefs.
However, the 25-year-old has been named in the reserves, and will likely take Milner-Skudder’s place at fullback in the second half, although Connor Garden-Bachop’s impressive showing there last week could force Alaimalo onto the wing.
Second rowers Bryn Evans and Josh Dickson appear to have shaken off the minor injuries that were reported following last week’s encounter, and have also been named on the bench.
The same can’t be said for former All Blacks pair Liam Squire and Josh Ioane, though, with both players continuing to work their way back from niggles picked up over pre-season, but head coach Tony Brown last week said they should both be fit for the start of the season.
Highlanders team to face the Hurricanes in Alexandra
1. Daniel Lienert-Brown
2. Ash Dixon (co-c)
3. Siate Tokolahi
4. Jack Regan
5. Manaaki Selby-Rickit
6. Shannon Frizell
7. Billy Harmon
8. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u
9. Aaron Smith (co-c)
10. Mitch Hunt
11. Jona Nareki
12. Sio Tomkinson
13. Fetuli Paea
14. Ngatungane Punivai
15. Nehe Milner-Skudder
Reserves: Liam Coltman, Josh Hohneck, Jeff Thwaites, Josh Dickson, Bryn Evans, Folau Fakatava, Connor Garden-Bachop, Michael Collins, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, James Lentjes, Hugh Renton, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Solomon Alaimalo
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