Highlanders, Crusaders go for youth
PRE-SEASON BUILD-UP: The Crusaders and Highlanders kick off their 2017 pre-season matches with the clash at Darfield Rugby Club on Saturday.
Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson has named a 30-man squad for the game, which will be played with rolling subs. A raft of players will wear the Crusaders strip for the first time, including eight players on the bench who have been involved in the Crusaders development programme. Jordan Taufua will have his first opportunity to captain the team.
The annual pre-season fixture was first played last year in Waimumu at Fred Booth Park, that game ended in a draw and both teams will be keen to try and secure the cup for the year, this time around.
"The guys have been training well for a few weeks now and just want to get out and have a game, we really enjoyed the game in Waimumu last year and I am sure the Darfield match will be a great occasion," said Highlanders coach Tony Brown.
While no current All Blacks will feature in the match having only just returned to training, most of the Highlanders squad will get some game time.
Luke Whitelock will be the starting XV captain.
Highlanders: 15 Jason Emery, 14 Fa'asiu Fuatai, 13 Sio Tomkinson, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Adrian Smith, 1 Craig Millar.
Replacements: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Aki Seiuli, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siate Tokolahi, Alex Ainley, Josh Dickson, Adam Knight, Dillon Hunt, Josh Renton, Marty Banks, Teihorangi Walden, Matt Faddes, Jona Nareki.
Crusaders: 15 Marty McKenzie, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua (captain), 7 Jed Brown, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Luke Romano, 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: Nathan Vella, Andrew Makalio, Oliver Jager, Chris Gawler, Samu Tawake, Quinten Strange, Pari Pari Parkinson, Tom Christie, Whetu Douglas, Leon Fukofuka, Ereatara Enari, Mitchell Hunt, Sione Fifita, Tim Bateman, Seta Tamanivalu, Sean Wainui, Inga Finau.
Date: Saturday, February 4
Venue: Darfield Rugby Club, Darfield
Kick-off: 17.00 (04.00 GMT)
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown/Mike Fraser (New Zealand)