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Highlanders primed for Crusaders clash

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/06/2017

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 will have a near full-strength squad to choose from for Saturday's Super Rugby match against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The Highlanders, on a nine-match winning streak, face a tough challenge against the Crusaders, who are undefeated this season.

Brown has reinstated Daniel Lienert-Brown to the front row and promoted Gareth Evans to the starting line-up after a number of good performances in recent weeks.

James Lentjes comes back on the openside following an elbow injury that side-lined him for three months, taking the place of Dillon Hunt .

The well-performed Rob Thompson comes in at second-five eighth this week, pushing utility back Richard Buckman to the left wing.

The Highlanders starting backline otherwise remains the same as that which impressed in last week's 44-28 win over the Waratahs in Dunedin.

Brown still has plenty of strike power on the bench in All Blacks Elliot Dixon and Lima Sopoaga, while Matt Faddes returns as outside back cover.

Captain Ben Smith will play his 128th Super Rugby game for the Highlanders and become its most capped player ahead of Anton Oliver.

All Blacks flanker Liam Squire's broken thumb is expected to keep him sidelined for another two or three weeks.

Highlanders: Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Rob Thompson, Richard Buckman, Marty Banks, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock, James Lentjes, Gareth Evans, Tom Franklin, Alex Ainley, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Aki Seiuli, Siosuia Halanukonuka, Joe Wheeler, Elliot Dixon, Kayne Hammington, Lima Sopoaga, Matt Faddes.

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