Rugby: Highlanders welcome back All Blacks

Aaron Smith. Photo / Getty Images.
Aaron Smith. Photo / Getty Images.

The Highlanders will field a starting XV full of experience with six past or present All Blacks when they face the Crusaders in Oamaru tomorrow afternoon.

Coach Jamie Joseph has made a number of changes from the team beaten 36-14 by the Chiefs in their first pre-season hitout in Taupo last weekend.

All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock, second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu and halfback Aaron Smith will all make their first starts of 2013.

In the forwards, Brayden Mitchell will start at hooker and Jarrad Hoeata moves to lock alongside Brad Thorn and Joe Wheeler switches from lock to blindside flanker. John Hardie also makes a return to rugby after a long injury break.

Highlanders team to play the Crusaders at Whitestone Contracting Stadium, Oamaru, tomorrow (4.30pm): Buxton Popoalii, Kade Poki, Phil Burleigh, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear (c), Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Elliot Dixon, John Hardie, Joe Wheeler, Jarrad Hoeata, Brad Thorn, Ma'afu Fia, Brayden Mitchell, Tony Woodcock.

Reserves: Hugh Blake, Liam Coltman, Tom Franklin, Paul Grant, Jamie Mackintosh, Bronson Murray, Jason Emery, Hayden Parker, Fumiaki Tanaka, Shaun Treeby, Frae Wilson.

Highlanders v Crusaders, Whitestone Contracting Stadium, Oamaru - Friday 8 February, 4.30pm (NZ Time).

1. Tony Woodcock; 2. Brayden Mitchell; 3. Ma'afu Fia; 4. Brad Thorn; 5. Jarrad Hoeata; 6. Joe Wheeler; 7. John Hardie; 8. Elliot Dixon; 9. Aaron Smith; 10. Lima Sopoaga;11. Hosea Gear (c); 12. Ma'a Nonu; 13. Phil Burleigh; 14. Kade Poki; 15. Buxton Popoalii

Backs: Jason Emery, Hayden Parker, Fumiaki Tanaka, Shaun Treeby & Frae Wilson.
Forwards: Hugh Blake, Liam Coltman, Tom Franklin, Paul Grant, Jamie Mackintosh & Bronson Murray.

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