The Highlanders will head into their third-round game against the resurgent Melbourne Rebels knowing they will need to make some improvements on the first two matches.

Head Coach, Aaron Mauger, while satisfied with their first two wins is aware of the need to improve. “We are happy with the outcome of the first two games, with plenty of positives to build upon, however, there are a few areas to tidy up in both our defence and attack”.

The team to take on the Rebels is a mixture of experience and youth, and an excellent opportunity for some players who have worked hard for their chance to showcase their abilities. “I am happy with the depth within our squad and the competition for positions is helping drive our preparation and performances each week”.

Halfback Folau Fakatava, hooker Ricky Jackson and prop Josh Iosefa-Scott are all set to make their Super Rugby debuts from the bench. Bryn Gatland gets his first start as pivot while Josh Ioane shows his versatility by covering fullback. Josh McKay gets his season underway on the left wing and Thomas Umaga-Jensen returns in the midfield after a week off.

In the forwards, Elliot Dixon, will start at number eight (replacing Luke Whitelock), while Pari Pari Parkinson will start in the middle row with the experienced Jackson Hemopo. Ash Dixon will captain the team with both Luke Whitelock and Ben Smith being rested.

Highlanders v Rebels – 7.45pm (9.45pm NZT), Friday 1st March, AAMI Park, Melbourne

  1. Daniel Lienert-Brown
  2. Ash Dixon (C)
  3. Siate Tokolahi
  4. Jackson Hemopo
  5. Pari Pari Parkinson
  6. Shannon Frizell
  7. James Lentjes
  8. Elliot Dixon
  9. Kayne Hammington
  10. Bryn Gatland* 
  11. Josh McKay
  12. Teihorangi Walden
  13. Thomas Umaga-Jensen
  14. Waisake Naholo
  15. Josh Ioane

Reserves

  1. Ricky Jackson
  2. Ayden Johnstone
  3. Josh Iosefa-Scott
  4. Tom Franklin
  5. Marino Mikaele Tu’u
  6. Folau Fakatava
  7. Patelesio Tomkinson
  8. Marty Banks

*Pulse Energy Highlanders Debut

**Super Rugby Debut

Unavailable due to injury: Tevita Nabura (knee - season), Liam Squire (hip), Robert Thompson (ankle).

END

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