8 Jul 2016

All Blacks back for Highlanders

9:41 am on 8 July 2016

The Highlanders have been boosted by the return of five All Blacks for this weekend's crunch Super Rugby clash with the Jaguars in Argentina.

Aaron Smith scores RWC2015

Aaron Smith is back for the Highlanders. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Elliot Dixon, Aaron and Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and Waisake Naholo are back in the starting XV after being rested last week.

Their inclusion softens the blow of losing All Black loosie Liam Squire, who's out with concussion, and regular co-captain Shane Christie, who's returned home to New Zealand with a virus.

Apart from Dixon, Joseph has bought in Joe Wheeler, Siosuia Halanukonuka and James Lentjes to freshen the forward pack for what is expected to be a tough forward battle against a Pumas laden Jaguars side.

"The Jaguares forwards were very good against the Bulls in wet conditions last week so we are anticipating a big game up front," said Joseph.

Aaron Smith will be a welcome return at halfback and will have a key role in directing the team around the field while co-captain Ben Smith will skipper the side in Christie's absence.

The return of Fekitoa and Naholo will provide plenty of speed and power to the Highlanders out wide.

The Highlanders are fourth in the New Zealand conference and fifth in the overall standings, just one point behind the Hurricanes and a win this weekend will likely be vital to their playoff chances.

The Highlanders team:

1. Josh Hohneck

2. Ash Dixon

3. Siosuia Halanukonuka

4. Tom Franklin

5. Joe Wheeler

6. Elliot Dixon

7. James Lentjes

8. Luke Whitelock

9. Aaron Smith

10. Lima Sopoaga

11. Patrick Osborne

12. Rob Thompson

13. Malakai Fekitoa

14. Waisake Naholo

15. Ben Smith (C)


16. Greg Pleasants-Tate

17. Aki Seiuli

18. Ross Geldenhuys

19. Mark Reddish

20. Dan Pryor

21. Te Aihe Toma

22. Fletcher Smith

23. Matt Faddes