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PREVIEW: Highlanders v Hurricanes

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Thursday, May 31, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Highlanders v Hurricanes, Forsyth Barr Stadium, 7.35pm, Friday 1 June. TICKETS. 

Played: 30
Won: Hurricanes 17, Highlanders 13
Last time: Hurricanes 29, Highlanders 12, Wellington 24 March 2018

FORM
The Hurricanes had their 10-match winning streak stopped in commanding fashion by the Crusaders last weekend. On a wet night in Christchurch, the Hurricanes struggled to adapt as the Crusaders controlled the tempo of the game and dominated upfront to win 24-13. They will be pleased to be back on a dry-track under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium and eager to recapture their try-scoring form. The Highlanders were tested against the Reds before snatching a tight 18-15 win with a last gasp penalty. It was their eighth win of the season from 12 games. 



BIG GUNS
The Highlanders have named what is potentially their strongest line-up of the season, with All Blacks Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock and Liam Squire all coming back into the starting line-up. While their starting fifteen is ominous, there is a stack of talent on the bench with All Blacks Shannon Frizell and Elliot Dixon set to provide plenty of impact alongside proven performers Liam Coltman and Richard Buckman. 

HALFBACK HUSTLE

While there are a number of big head-to-head clashes across the park, none are more anticipated than the clash between halfbacks Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara. Both players are in a shootout for the starting nine jersey for the All Blacks and are crucial to their side’s chances. Last week, Aaron Smith played a crucial role in getting the Highlanders the victory from the bench while TJ Perenara has come back into the Hurricanes in top form following an injury break. This is sure to be a clash that the All Blacks selectors will be watching closely with the side to take on France named next Thursday.
THE SCOOP
With the last eight matches between these sides being decided by a margin of seven points or less, another tight clash is instore at Forsyth Barr Stadium. While the Hurricanes have been the better team this year, the Highlanders have named a power-packed line-up and will be eager to get the better of a hurting Hurricanes side.

FAST FACT

Rob Thompson has assisted six tries this season, the most of any non-halfback in the competition.

TEAMS
Highlanders
: Ben Smith (co-captain), Waisake Naholo, Rob Thompson, Tei Walden, Tevita Li, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith Luke Whitelock, Dillon Hunt, Liam Squire, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Kalolo Tuiloma, Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Aki Seiuli, Tyrel Lomax, Shannon Frizell, Elliot Dixon, Josh Renton, Josh Ioane, Richard Buckman.

Hurricanes:
Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea, Jodie Barrett, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Gareth Evans, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields (captain), Sam Lousi, Michael Fatialofa, Jeff To'omaga-Allen, Ricky Riccitelli, Toby Smith. Reserves: James O'Reilly, Chris Eves, Ben May, Vaea Fifita/Murray Douglas, Finlay Christie, Ihaia West, Wes Goosen.