Highlanders get All Blacks trio boost
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: All Blacks Liam Coltman, Lima Sopoaga and Waisake Naholo have all been made available for the Highlanders when they take on the British & Irish Lions in a historic match.
The trio has been released by the All Blacks, while while international commitments ruled out another seven.
The forwards are virtually unchanged from the starting pack that took on the Crusaders with only Jackson Hemopo and Dillon Hunt added.
In the backs Teihorangi Walden gets a rare start with Richard Buckman shifting to fullback due to the unavailability of regular fullbacks Ben Smith and Matt Faddes.
All Black Lima Sopoaga will play at 10 shifting Marty Banks to the bench and Kayne Hammington will make just his second start of the season at halfback.
On the bench a Highlanders debut looms for lock Josh Dickson and an opportunity for local boy Josh Renton to play at scrumhalf in front of his home crowd.
Highlanders Head Coach Scott McLeod knows the match will be a big occasion "For some of these guys this will be the biggest rugby day of their careers, and it is a special moment in any rugby player’s life to play against the Lions.
"It’s going to be a massive occasion for the club and our supporters,"
Highlanders: 15 Richard Buckman, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock (captain), 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Jackson Hemopo, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Patrick Osborne.
Date: Tuesday, June 13
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off:19.35 (08.35 UK & Ireland time; 07.35 GMT)
Assistant referees: TBC