Highlanders prop Daniel Lienert-Brown has been called into the South Island squad a week out from the highly-anticipated North vs South clash in Wellington.
Lienert-Brown comes into the squad in place of standout Blues prop Alex Hodgman, who has left on family leave, New Zealand Rugby confirmed on Friday.
The 27-year-old’s call-up presents stiff competition to back-up All Blacks loosehead Joe Moody on the bench, with impressive Crusaders front rower George Bower also in contention for a place in the match day 23.
A Canterbury representative since 2014, Lienert-Brown’s inclusion in the South squad also adds an extra storyline to a clash that has already thrown up plenty of intriguing match-ups.
Should he be named in the match day side to run out at Sky Stadium next Saturday, the 2015 Super Rugby champion will likely face off against younger brother and All Blacks star Anton Lienert-Brown, who has been included in the North squad.
While the duo were both born and raised in Christchurch, Anton made his provincial debut for Waikato as a teenager in 2014, thus tying his allegiance to the North Island.
The Lienert-Brown brothers aren’t the only pair of siblings set to square off in the New Zealand capital next weekend, with North Island first-five Beauden Barrett expected to face young brother and South Island fullback Jordie.
Similarly to the Lienert-Brown’s, both the Barrett brothers hail from the same region in Taranaki, with Beauden debuting for the province in 2010.
However, although Jordie is now also signed with Taranaki at Mitre 10 Cup level, the 23-year-old made his first-class debut for Canterbury in 2016, making him eligible for the South Island.
The loss of Hodgman, who is eligible for the South after making his debut for Canterbury six years ago, is a considerable blow for the All Blacks selectors given his career-best form for the Blues during Super Rugby Aotearoa.
The former New Zealand and Fiji U20 representative caught the eye throughout the competition with his defensive work rate and strong scrummaging as he filled the starting loosehead prop role for all but one match in the absence of the injured Karl Tu’inukuafe.
That hot run of form led to a New Zealand Herald report which revealed that he was among a slew of Super Rugby Aotearoa players – including Bower, Hoskins Sotutu, Pita Gus Sowakula and Manasa Mataele – that Fiji head coach Vern Cotter was interested in.
“There’s guys that have shown really good form,” Cotter told the Herald last month. “Alex Hodgman from the Blues has gone really well.”
The North vs South match is scheduled to kick-off at 7:10pm on Saturday, September 5 at Sky Stadium in Wellington.
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