Surprise fullback selection for Highlanders
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Fresh off the bye and a first-round win against the Chiefs, head coach Aaron Mauger has resisted making too many changes to the Highlanders team to play the Blues this weekend.
There is only one change in the backs with Scott Gregory starting at fullback in what will be his second game for the franchise.
A versatile player who also plays on the wing, Gregory played fullback for Northland during the 2019 Mitre 10 Cup. However, had the COVID-19 pandemic not hit, he may well have been preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a member of the All Blacks Sevens Squad.
The postponement gives him a chance to further his experience in the XVs game.
“It seems like a long time since my first game against the Rebels earlier in the year and I am really looking forward to getting out there, with the talent we have in our backs you have to take your opportunities when you can,” said Gregory.
In the only other change, Ngane Punivai returns from injury to take a spot on the bench.
Highlanders: 15 Scott Gregory, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Sio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Ngane Punivai.
Date: Saturday, June 27
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.05 (07.05 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, Ben O’Keeffe
TMO: Mike Fraser