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Under-fire All Blacks star absent as Highlanders make raft of changes for Reds clash

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

The Highlanders will be without under-fire All Blacks star Shannon Frizell for their opening Super Rugby Trans-Tasman clash against the Reds in Dunedin on Friday.

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Frizell made headlines earlier this week after he was allegedly involved in an assault on a women at a Dunedin bar in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The 27-year-old, who was arguably the best player for the Highlanders throughout Super Rugby Aotearoa, has subsequently missed out on selection for this week’s side to face the newly-crowned Super Rugby AU champions.

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In his place comes young loose forward Hugh Renton, who comes into the side at blindside flanker as one of six alterations to the starting side that lost to the Hurricanes in Wellington a fortnight ago.

The Highlanders have also welcomed back enormous lock Pari Pari Parkinson, who has been out of action since April 10 when he re-injured the same ankle he had surgery on last year during his side’s extra-time defeat to the Chiefs in Dunedin.

Parkinson, who has a physical frame of 2.04m and 130kg, partners with Josh Dickson in the second row, while Ayden Johnstone replaces the highly-promising Ethan de Groot at loosehead prop.

In the backline, Michael Collins, who was recently announced as a new signing for Welsh PRO14 side Ospreys, has been named in the starting XV for the first time in six weeks.

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His inclusion at centre has forced a positional re-shuffle, with Patelesio Tomkinson moving to the right wing, which has forced youngster Sam Gilbert to fullback in place of former All Blacks star Nehe Milner-Skudder, who misses out altogether.

Of those who started against the Hurricanes in their final Super Rugby Aotearoa clash, De Groot and lock Bryn Evans have been demoted to the bench, while there are two further new additions in the reserves.

Young outside back Ngatungane Punivai returns from a quadricep injury to be named in the No. 23 jersey, while Tasman first-five Tim O’Malley, who has come into the side as injury cover, could make his Super Rugby debut.

Kick-off for Friday’s clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium is scheduled for 7:05pm [NZT].

Highlanders team to face the Reds

1. Ayden Johnstone
2. Ash Dixon (co-c)
3. Siate Tokolahi
4. Pari Pari Parkinson
5. Josh Dickson
6. Hugh Renton
7. Billy Harmon
8. Kazuki Himeno
9. Aaron Smith (co-c)
10. Mitch Hunt
11. Jona Nareki
12. Scott Gregory
13. Michael Collins
14. Patelesio Tomkinson
15. Sam Gilbert

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Reserves:

16. Liam Coltman
17. Ethan de Groot
18. Josh Hohneck
19. Bryn Evans
20. James Lentjes
21. Kayne Hammington
22. Tim O’Malley
23. Ngatungane Punivai

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Flankly 10 hours ago
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