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Brown not bothered by loose forward woes

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/04/2017

Highlanders coach Tony Brown has done his best to allay fears of an injury crisis within his loose forwards. © Dianne Manson/Getty Images Highlanders coach Tony Brown has done his best to allay fears of an injury crisis within his loose forwards. Highlanders coach Tony Brown has done his best to allay fears of an injury crisis within his loose forwards, as the southerners prepare to face a bruised Stormers outfit.

Gareth Evans has been named at blindside flanker for the Super Rugby clash on Friday night, while Dillon Hunt will start at blindside with Liam Squire shifting to No.8.

It is a relatively untested trio, which has been patched together following the absences of Luke Whitelock (concussion) and Elliot Dixon (knee).

Luke Whitelock is suffering concussion symptoms, ruling him out of the Highlanders' Super Rugby match against the Stormers. © AAP Image/SNPA, Adam Binns Luke Whitelock is suffering concussion symptoms, ruling him out of the Highlanders' Super Rugby match against the Stormers. Add the mysterious long-term injury-enforced absence of former co-captain Shane Christie, and it would appear the side's loose forward stocks are running on almost empty.

Brown, however, disagreed.

"I think if you look at our loose forwards and the injuries we've had, it just gives opportunities to other guys.

"A guy like Dillon Hunt, who wasn't on anyone's radar at the start of the year, has now come in and has been pretty impressive in that No.7 jersey.''

The Highlanders coach said Whitelock's professionalism was matched on the field as much as off the field, and that his absence would leave a hole in the team.

The 42-year- old, who played for the Stormers in the 2008 Super Rugby season, said they hadn't looked too deeply into the visitors' 24-57 loss to the Crusaders last Saturday.

"The travel from South Africa makes it really tough in that first game. Traditionally, the second game is the game that the South African sides perform well.

"I don't think they're targeting us as such. I think with the travel it's just the way that happens."

Friday's clash will mark dynamic Fijian wing Patrick Osborne's 50th match for the southern franchise.

The 29-year- old made his debut for the Chiefs in 2013 but has been a key ingredient for the Highlanders' potent backline.

Brown was full of praise for the Fijian international.

"When he gets the ball, he always keeps it alive, he's dangerous and creates so much play off him.

"He's had a massive impact on the Highlanders over the last two-to- three years, and he is one of the reasons we've had a successful period. We're hoping he's going to have a big one on Friday."

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