Highlanders rush Tuiali'i back
Highlanders rush Tuiali'i backSHARE
The winless Highlanders have made two changes for Friday's Super Rugby match against the Blues, with new signing Mose Tuiali'i rushed back into the starting XV.
Tuiali'i, who was whistled in over Easter as injury cover for Nasi Manu, will also start at No.8 – with Elliot Dixon returning to the reserves.
Veteran prop Jamie MacKintosh makes his first start for the season, replacing Tony Woodcock – who has suffered a hamstring strain.
Coach Jamie Joseph said he named Tuiali'i in the starting XV ahead of local players because he had been playing well in Japan.
"It's nice to have his services," Joseph said.
"We have seen tapes of how he has been playing over there, albeit against the calibre of opposition, but he has been playing very well.
"You only have to look at the Brumbies and George Smith, who has been there [Japan] for three years and he looks like he has not lost a gallop."
Joseph said local players had always had a look-in to gain selection and that had never changed.
He was impressed with the performance of Otago loose forward TJ Ioane last week, showing he could do the job at this level.
Joseph said he remains optimistic the Highlanders can turn their season around.
"We've taken all teams to the wire except the Cheetahs," he said.
"I thought we under-performed last week against Queensland, particularly on defence.
"You look at the Blues and us and why shouldn't we have self-belief? We've just got to put together a total performance."
The Highlanders still have an extended injury list.
Tamati Ellison (shoulder) is still two months away from a return, Kade Poki (ribs – one week from a return), Shaun Treeby (hamstring – two to three weeks) and Woodcock (hamstring – one week).
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Buxton Popoalii, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Mose Tuiali'i, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore (captain), 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ma'afu Fia, 18 TJ Ioane, 19 Elliot Dixon, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Lima Sopoaga, 22 Phil Burleigh.
Date: Friday, April 5
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Jonathon White (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)