Lee replaces Cowan for Hurricanes clash

Thursday, April 21, 2005    NZPA

No 8 Paul Miller and winger Matt Saunders, who missed the 19-18 win over the Brumbies with injury and illness respectively, have been recalled to the team.

Grant Webb, who played soundly and scored a fine try against the Brumbies, and Neil Brew drop back to the bench.

The expected battle for the Highlanders halfback's job fizzled out in recent weeks as Lee tried to overcome a niggling back injury.

Cowan started the first two games of the season and Lee the third, with Cowan reclaiming the role for the past four games while Lee battled back to fitness.

The race for the No 9 jersey is heating up again.

"We've looked at our opposition this week and just decided that Danny's our best option," Highlanders coach Greg Cooper said.

"The big strength he has is organisation, and we feel we really need that against a side like the Hurricanes.

"Jimmy's unlucky, really. We've been pleased with his progress and his passing and general game has been very good."

Miller (quadricep) and Saunders were both late scratchings from the Brumbies game but had started every game before that and their form demanded their inclusion this week.

There is still no place for the fastest player in the Highlanders, winger Hayden Pederson.

Pedersen missed the trip to South Africa and Australia because of a badly dislocated finger and now finds himself unable to dislodge Saunders, Glen Horton or Brew - understandable given they have not put a foot wrong in the Highlanders five-game winning run.

"Hayden's available for selection. But all of our players understand that we have to put faith in the guys in the squad that are doing the job.

"Unless there's a dramatic loss of form or an injury, there's no reason to change a winning formula."

The Hurricanes, who are also coming off the bye like the Highlanders, named the same side that beat the Waratahs in their last game.

Shannon Paku retains his place at fullback, when it seemed likely that Brent Ward, who has recovered from a broken hand, would be recalled.

Three of the starting tight five - Andrew Hore, Joe McDonnell and Luke Andrews - are former Otago players.

Hurricanes: Shannon Paku, Lome Fa'atau, Conrad Smith, Tana Umaga (captain), Ma'a Nonu, Jimmy Gopperth, Piri Weepu, Rodney So'oialo, Ben Herring, Jerry Collins, Luke Andrews, Ross Kennedy, Neemia Tialata, Andrew Hore, Joe McDonnell. Reserves: Joe Ward, Tim Fairbrother, Kristian Ormsby, Chris Masoe, Isaac Boss, Tane Tu'ipulotu, Hosea Gear.

Highlanders: Ben Blair, Glen Horton, Anthony Tuitavake, Seilala Mapusua, Matt Saunders, Nick Evans, Danny Lee, Paul Miller, Josh Blackie, Craig Newby, James Ryan, Tom Donnelly, Carl Hayman, Anton Oliver (captain), Carl Hoeft. Reserves: Neil Brew, Cameron McIntyre, Jimmy Cowan, Grant Webb, Filipo Levi, Clarke Dermody, Mahonri Schwalger.