Sopoaga back to take on the Force
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga has been included on the bench when his side take on the Force on Saturday in Round 13 of the Super Rugby competition.
Sopoaga has been out of action since March 11 due to a strained hamstring he sustained during his side's match against the Blues.
The 26-year-old missed nine Super Rugby matches and will gradually make his comeback, starting with the Force in Perth.
Joining Sopoaga on the bench is scrumhalf Aaron Smith, who has been given a well-earned break for the first time this season. The number nine jersey will be worn by Kayne Hammington for his first start.
Also in the backs, Tevita Li comes in for the suspended Waisake Naholo.
Meanwhile, in the forwards, All Black hooker Liam Coltman returns and will accompany Daniel Lienert-Brown and Siate Tokolahi in the front row of the starting XV for the first time on the three week tour.
Elliot Dixon will co-captain the side from number eight.
Lock Tom Franklin will play his 50th game when he takes the field to play the Western Force
Franklin who made his debut in 2014 has been a regular in the middle row over the last few seasons. A commanding lock who contributes all over the park he has played for the New Zealand Under-20 and Maori All Blacks
Highlanders: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Rob Thompson.
Date: Saturday, May 20
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 17.45 (09.45 GMT, 19.45 NZ Time)
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant referees: Ed Martin (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)