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Highlanders back to full strength

Newshub logoNewshub 17/05/2018
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All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith returns and namesake Ben Smith is retained in a near-full strength Highlanders team to face the Waratahs in Sydney.

Aaron Smith sat out last week's impressive 39-27 home win over the Lions as the Highlanders improved their record to 7-3.

The brilliant Test No.9 links again with Lima Sopoaga on Saturday in a classy halves pairing.

Speculation that in-form All Blacks fullback Ben Smith would be rested this week proved unfounded.

The Highlanders co-captain has started every match this year, having yet to sit out either of the two full weeks required by All Blacks players under their welfare agreement.

Those breaks will have to wait, with Smith retained as the Highlanders prepare for a Waratahs side who have pushed New Zealand teams close this month, suffering narrow losses to the Blues and Crusaders.

There are three other starting changes.

Sio Tomkinson is at inside centre in place of Tei Walden (concussion) while flanker Dillon Hunt and lock Jackson Hemopo are rotated back into the pack in place of James Lentjes and Alex Ainley.

Winger Tevita Li has overcome a foot injury and is on the bench.

Highlanders: Ben Smith (co-capt), Waisake Naholo, Rob Thompson, Sio Tomkinson, Tevita Nabura, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock, Dillon Hunt, Elliot Dixon, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Tyrel Lomax, Ash Dixon (co-capt), Daniel Lienart-Brown.

Reserves: Liam Coltman, Aki Seiuli, Kalolo Tuiloma, Shannon Frizell, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Kayne Hammington, Josh Ioane, Tevita Li.             

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