By NZ Herald

New Highlanders coach Tony Brown has had a subtle dig at Aaron Mauger, saying the team lost their identity during his tenure.

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Mauger was dumped as head coach of the Highlanders in September after three years in charge following an internal review at the end of this year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Brown, who served as attack coach under Mauger this year, says the Dunedin franchise needs to rediscover its “identity”, something he believes they’ve lost in the last few years.

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“I just think it’s really important that we create an identity that’s [the] Highlanders,” Brown said.

“I think potentially we might have lost a little bit of that over the last few years.

“I want to take us back to that identity and make sure the players understand that, what the environment is about, play good footy and entertain the fans.”

The Highlanders haven’t managed to replicate the success under Jamie Joseph and Brown, when they took out the Super Rugby crown in 2015.

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They’ve since also lost a host of experienced players like former All Blacks Ben Smith and Waisake Naholo.

Brown and Mauger will go head-to-head this weekend when the Moana Pasfika side take on the M?ori All Blacks.

Meanwhile, the Highlanders revealed their Super Rugby squad for 2021 headlined by the return of Liam Squire who is back from a brief stint playing in Japan.

There are six new faces and two returning players in the team co-captained by Ash Dixon and Aaron Smith.

Highlanders’ 2021 Super Rugby squad

Props: Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Jeff Thwaites, Ethan de Groot, Jermaine Ainsley, Josh Hohneck

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Hookers: Ricky Jackson, Ash Dixon, Liam Coltman

Locks: Pari Pari Parkinson, Josh Dickson, Maanaki Selby-Rickit, Bryn Evans

Loose forwards: Billy Harmon, James Lentjes, Shannon Frizell, Marino Mikaele Tu’u, Sione Misiloi, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Liam Squire, Kazuki Himeno

Halfbacks: Aaron Smith, Kayne Hammington, Folau Fakatava

First-fives: Josh Ioane, Mitchell Hunt

Midfield: Fetuli Paea, Sio Tomkinson, Thomas Umaga Jensen, Ngane Punivai

Outside backs: Nehe Milner Skudder, Connor Garden Bachop, Scott Gregory, Jona Nareki, Solomon Alaimalo, Michael Collins, Sam Gilbert, Vilimoni Koroi

Listen to the latest episode of the Aoteaora Rugby Pod below:

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and was republished with permission.

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