Thorn gets early run with Highlanders
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph named three newcomers in his starting XV to play the Chiefs on Saturday.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph named three newcomers in his starting XV to play the Chiefs in a Super Rugby pre-season match at Owen Delany Park in Taupo on Saturday.
The players who will pull on the Highlanders jersey for the first time and veteran All Black Brad Thorn, Joe Wheeler and Frae Wilson.
Thorn returns to Super Rugby after a season in Japan, while Wheeler made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2011 before joining the Southern franchise this season.
Wilson, who played for the New Zealand Maori on their tour to the United Kingdom late last year, also runs out for the first time in the Highlanders strip.
As is usual with pre-season games, the majority of the Highlanders squad will travel to Taupo for the match.
There are a number of new faces among the reserves.
In the forwards Hugh Blake will travel with the team; additionally Paul Grant, Tom Franklin and Sam Prattley are all players who have been called into the squad as injury cover.
In the backs the new players are the Otago trio of Tony Ensor, Hayden Parker and Fumiaki Tanaka, and they are joined by Trent Renata and Jason Emery.
All Black Manu Nonu will only join the Highlanders next Monday, while fellow All Black and Blues recruit Tony Woodcock is being rested.
Trent Renata has been brought into the squad as injury cover for Declan O'Donnell (shoulder injury)
Other players missing out through injury include Jake Paringatai (hand - five weeks to return), John Hardie (foot recovery 2012 - one week), Colin Slade (leg recovery 2012 - three to four weeks), Nasi Manu (hamstring - two to three weeks), Tamati Ellison (shoulder - six months) and Chris King (shoulder - two weeks).
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Buxton Popoalii, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Hosea Gear (captain), 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Frae Wilson, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 Tim Boys, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements - from: Jason Emery, Tony Ensor, Kade Poki, Hayden Parker, Trent Renata, Aaron Smith, Fumiaki Tanaka, Josh Bekhuis, Hugh Blake, Tom Franklin, Paul Grant, Brayden Mitchell, Bronson Murray & Sam Prattley.
Date: Saturday, February 2
Venue: Owen Delany Park, Taupo
Kick-off: 15.00 (02.00 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant referees: Shane McDermott, Local