Josh Ioane has been named in Highlanders head coach Aaron Mauger's match-day squad for Sunday's Super Rugby Aotearoa match against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Kick-off is at 05:35 (SA time).
Ioane returns to action via the bench in what is a largely unchanged team from Sunday's close 17-11 loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington. Ioane, who withdrew before the Round 1 match against the Chiefs with a re-aggravated groin strain the injury, will get his first taste of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
“It’s been tough to be on the sidelines watching as there have been some great games going on and I’m excited to get the opportunity to get back out there,” said Ioane.
There are no changes in the forward pack with Dillon Hunt, who left the field last week after sustaining a finger in the eye, being declared fit to play.
Jona Nareki, who has started every match so far for the Highlanders, will be given a chance to make an impact off the bench this week. Scott Gregory will move from the right-wing to the left-wing making way for Josh McKay to make his competition debut.
Among the reserves, Folau Fakatava and Ethan De Groot will be included in the playing team for the first time after Kayne Hammington broke his hand in the final moments of the Hurricanes match and Daniel Lienert-Brown is unavailable due to dental surgery this week. Should de Groot take the field this will be his Super Rugby debut.
Mauger is looking for improvement from his team.
“We have had our chances in every game we’ve played and the guys are working at getting better every time they run out, we are all aware the standard of play in this competition is extremely high and you need your very best against any team,” he said.
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Kaleb Trask, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tupou Vaa’i, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Aidan Ross
Substitutes: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Reuben O'Neill, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Quinn Tupaea
15 Michael Collins, 14 Josh McKay, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Sio Tomkinson, 11 Scott Gregory, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, 7 Shannon Frizell, 6 Dillon Hunt, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ayden Johnstone
Substitutes: 16 Liam Coltman (co-captain), 17 Ethan De Groot, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Jesse Parete, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Jona Nareki
- TEAMtalk media