Highlanders get Whitelock back
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Highlanders stars Luke Whitelock and Marty Banks return from injury to take on the Blues in Auckland this weekend.
However, Liam Squire and James Lentjes are both out injured giving Gareth Evans, who entered the game a few minutes into last week's clash, a start at No.6.
Elliot Dixon will again captain the side this time from openside flank and Whitelock will complete the new look back row at No.8.
Highlanders head coach Tony Brown has named a forward-heavy bench with six in the reserves including Aki Seiuli at prop and locks, Jackson Hemopo and Joe Wheeler. Dillon Hunt will cover the loose forwards and make his Super Rugby debut should he take the field. Kayne Hammington and Banks will provide the back cover from the bench.
The match will mark 50 games for the Highlanders lock Joe Wheeler. Wheeler made his debut in 2013.
Players unavailable due to injury includes Squire, Shane Christie, Ash Dixon, Dan Pryor, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Ben Smith, Adrian Smith, Josh Dickson and Lentjes
Highlanders: 15 Richard Buckman, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Elliot Dixon (captain), 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Sekonia Pole, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Dillon Hunt, 22 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks.
Date: Saturday, March 11
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)