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Two injury changes for the Highlanders ahead of Tonga trip

By Ben Smith
Folau Fakatava of the Highlanders looks on during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and Moana Pasifika at Forsyth Barr Stadium, on February 24, 2024, in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Highlanders have named their team for their trip to play Moana Pasifika in Nuku’alofa for the first-ever Super Rugby Pacific game in Tonga.

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Tongan-born and raised halfback Folau Fakatava and prop Saula Ma’au will have a homecoming of sorts after immigrating to New Zealand in their teenage years, with their parents in attendance to watch the special occasion.

The battle is a key one in the playoff picture with both teams sitting on the edge in 8th and 9th on the ladder. In the three previous fixtures between the two clubs, the Highlanders have never lost, sporting a 3-0 record.

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“If you look at our and Moana Pasifika’s position on the table its clearly an important game for both teams,” Clarke Dermody said.

“It will be a special occasion, particularly for our Tongan players, and there will be some unique challenges around the game that we have included in our preparation this week.”

All Black prop Ethan de Groot is on an enforced rest week meaning Daniel Lienert-Brown starts at loosehead, alongside Henry Bell at hooker and Saula Ma’u.

On the bench, Jack Taylor, Ayden Johnstone and Jermaine Ainsley make up the front row reserves.

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The other forced changed is young No.10 Cameron Millar starting in place of Rhys Patchell who suffered a pectoral injury against the Force. Patchell is out for 6-8 weeks as a result.

Midfielder Jake Te Hiwi has been retained at second five-eighth alongside Tanielu Tele’a at centre, while Sam Gilbert will deputise on the bench as utility cover.

Highlanders v Moana Pasifika – 3:05pm (2:05pm NZT), Saturday 4th May, Teufaiva Sport Stadium, Nuku’alofa, Tonga

1. Daniel Lienert-Brown
2. Henry Bell
3. Saula Ma’u
4. Mitch Dunshea
5. Fabian Holland
6. Oliver Haig
7. Sean Withy
8. Billy Harmon (c)
9. Folau Fakatava
10. Cameron Millar
11. Connor Garden-Bachop
12. Jake Te Hiwi
13. Tanielu Tele’a
14. Timoci Tavatavanawai
15. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens

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Reserves

16. Jack Taylor
17. Ayden Johnstone
18. Jermaine Ainsley
19. Will Tucker
20. Nikora Broughton
21. James Arscott
22. Sam Gilbert
23. Martín Bogado

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Wonton 5 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

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Nick 7 hours ago
How 'gazelle' Nick Frost thawed the hearts of Wallaby fans at Suncorp

Its almost like you read my comment on the other site on sunday morning Nick - you flagged all the same examples! 😝 Frost was motm for mine. That eg in the 56th minute in particular impressed me, nothing but sheer effort and a dupont/smith-like tracking line behind the D. Surely an effort like that from frost marries perfectly with that quote from schmidt at the start of the year about effort and work rate being 70-80% and talent is just the icing on top… What it also showed though was the players not making that effort, in that example he goes past both valetini and ikitau, and in the eg that finished with valetini scoring hunter paisami barely breaks a canter to support the break. And then there was the chase from wright and lancaster for the 2nd georgian try! One blemish - at kickoff I saw frost miss or get bumped off a few tackles and I felt like I saw what has been holding his selection back. I think because he is so big and is trying to get low to tackle, he seems to dip his head and ends up losing his balance or ability to adjust and ends up missing or making a soft hit. I think in the first 2 minutes he misses or makes 2-3 soft tackles, but you could clearly see the work rate and desire! He (the pod) also missed a kick restart or two? Also very happy to see harry wilson back in the fold. What impressed me from him wasn’t all the usual stuff he is known for, but all the other bits that usually let him down. He looked surprisingly good in the air at lineout time, physical at the breakdown, and good in the maul peeling off 3 georgians for one of the maul tries. Id have frost, skelton, wright as my 4-6 with LSL and wilson on the bench. i’m once again unconvinced by tom wirght - he was very good game 1, but game 2-3 he was back to more rocks than diamonds. There is no real other player to usurp him really so he stays in the team for now but I think Joe should put kellaway wherever he serves the team best and wright can be moved around him. Did donno do enough to overtake noah? My gut says no. They clearly had a plan to attack more so he looked better in that regard because he just had more opportunity, but they looked better off tate (who had a v good game also) then they did off donno.

17 Go to comments
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