PREVIEW: Smith leads Highlanders against Waratahs

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 07:56
Large ben smith highlanders hands off 800

SUPER RUGBY PRE-SEASON ACTION: All Black Ben Smith will make his long-awaited return to the field when the Highlanders host a new-look Waratahs side in Queenstown as preparations for the 2018 Super Rugby season.

The last time these two sides met in Queenstown was in 2016 where the Highlanders ran out 40-35 winners.

In terms of team news, Highlanders have included several 2018 squad debutants Tyrel Lomax, Pari Pari Parkinson, Shannon Frizell, Josh Ioane and Tevita Nabura in the starting side and prop Kalolo Tuiloma and outside Josh McKay on the bench. Injury replacement players Terrance Hepetema (centre) and Marino Mikaele Tu’u (loose forward) will get their chance to impress while several local Otago and Southland players round out the 32.

The team will be captained by Ben Smith with co-captain Ash Dixon coming off the bench.

Head coach, Aaron Mauger, is looking forward to the contest and what it will deliver.

"There is plenty of competition within the team. Some guys there who have a bit of experience and then there are some new guys. We'll see how they go in the next couple of games and learn a bit about them,"

Meanwhile, Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson has named a new-look Waratahs side which includes new captain and seven players in the starting XV who will make their debut.

Hooker Damien Fitzpatrick will captain the team for the first time while prop Harry Johnson-Holmes, locks Nick Palmer and Tom Staniforth, flank Will Miller, centre Lalakai Foketi, and wings Alex Newsome and Curtis Rona will all wear the NSW Waratahs jersey for the first time.

Gibson said the importance of pre-season games should not be underestimated.

"These matches provide us with the opportunity to test combinations while at the same time give the players who have completed the majority of pre-season the opportunity to perform and build our team identity. All the players have been super in their approach and deserve an opportunity. Friday’s game will give us an excellent assessment on where we are at in our preparation cycle," he said.

"I have made it very clear to the team that 2018 is about delivering on our potential, performing and being at our best. The young players are hungry to push for a regular spot in the starting line-up, which creates healthy competition in the squad," he added.

Fitzpatrick is relishing the chance to lead from the front.

"While the captaincy was unexpected, to be asked to captain the Waratahs in any capacity, whether in a preseason game or not, is a huge honour and I’m very grateful. I am proud to play for the NSW Waratahs and as a team we are ready to go out and display a new focus in 2018," he said.

"The game is a great opportunity for a group of players who have been working hard from day one this pre-season to show their talent. There are also a number of players who will wear the sky blue for the first time. The Highlanders are always a strong team so it will provide us with an opportunity to practice our game under pressure and away from home,"


Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Josh Timu, 13 Terrance Hepetema, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Nabura, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Josh Renton, 8 Adam Knight, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Greg Pleasants -Tate, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Guy Millar, 18 Kalolo Tuiloma, 19 Siate Tokolahi, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Ryan Tongia, 24 Flynn Thomas, 25 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 27 Tom Franklin, 28 Dan Pryor, 29 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 30 Rob Thompson, 31 Matt Faddes, 32 Tevita Li, 33 Josh McKay.

Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Curtis Rona, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Mack Mason, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Will Miller, 6 Brad Wilkin, 5 Tom Staniforth, 4 Nick Palmer, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick (captain), 1 Paddy Ryan.
Replacements: Hugh Roach, Tom Robertson, Shambeckler Vui, Ryan McCauley, Lachlan Swinton, Mitch Short, Seb Wileman, Maclean Jones, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Ned Hanigan, Rory O’Connor, Kelly Meafua

Date: Friday, February 2
Venue: Queenstown, New Zealand
Kick-off: 18.00 (05.00 GMT, 16.00 AEDT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)

There are currently no matches being played
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Hurricanes v Sunwolves 07h35 Wellington
Stormers v Rebels 13h00 Newlands
Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons 18h45 Welford Road
Sat, 28 April 2018
Reds v Lions 05h05 Suncorp Stadium
Blues v Jaguares 07h35 Eden Park
Brumbies v Crusaders 09h45 Canberra
Kings v Cheetahs 13h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks 14h00 Sandy Park
Worcester Warriors v Harlequins 14h00 Sixways
Gloucester v Bath 14h00 Kingsholm
Connacht v Leinster 14h05 Sportsground
Dragons v Scarlets 14h05 Rodney Parade
Bulls v Highlanders 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
Treviso v Zebre 16h00 Stadio Monigo
Cardiff Blues v Ospreys 16h35 Cardiff Arms Park
Munster v Ulster 16h35 Thomond Park
Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors 18h35 Myreside
Sun, 29 April 2018
London Irish v Saracens 14h00 Madejski Stadium
Wasps v Northampton Saints 14h00 Ricoh Arena
Sun, 22 April 2018
Racing Metro v Munster 27 | 22
Brumbies v Jaguares 20 | 25
Sat, 21 April 2018
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors 36 | 15
Zebre v Ospreys 37 | 14
Sharks v Stormers 24 | 17
Leinster v Scarlets 38 | 16
Bulls v Rebels 28 | 10
Reds v Chiefs 12 | 36
Crusaders v Sunwolves 33 | 11
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Waratahs v Lions 0 | 29
Blues v Highlanders 16 | 34
Sun, 15 April 2018
Saracens v Bath 41 | 6
London Irish v Exeter Chiefs 5 | 45
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Kings v Cardiff Blues 12 | 45
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 8 5 1 2 24
Rebels 87 4 0 4 21
Brumbies 8 3 0 5 15
Reds 8 3 0 5 13
Sunwolves 8 0 0 8 2
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 8 6 0 2 29
Hurricanes 7 6 0 1 27
Chiefs 8 6 0 2 26
Highlanders 7 5 0 2 24
Blues 8 2 0 6 12
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 9 6 0 3 30
Bulls 8 4 0 4 19
Sharks 9 3 1 5 18
Jaguares 9 4 0 5 16
Stormers 9 3 0 6 14