Rugby: Smith and Nonu benched by Highlanders

All Blacks Ma'a Nonu and Aaron Smith will start on the bench for the Highlanders when they face the Blues in Dunedin tomorrow night. Photo / Getty Images.
All Blacks Ma'a Nonu and Aaron Smith will start on the bench for the Highlanders when they face the Blues in Dunedin tomorrow night. Photo / Getty Images.

All Blacks Ma'a Nonu and Aaron Smith will start on the bench for the Highlanders when they face the Blues in Dunedin tomorrow night.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has made seven changes to the side which lost 19-18 to the Western Force in Perth last week.

Japanese international Fumiaki Tanaka and Shaun Treeby will start at halfback and second five-eighth respectively, while Trent Renata replaces Tino Nemani on the right wing of a reshuffled Highlanders backline.

Ma'afu Fia replaces the injured Chris King in the front row, while Jamie Mackintosh will start at loosehead.

Colin Slade makes a return to Super Rugby at first-five, with Hayden Parker on the bench.

Tomorrow night's clash at Dunedin's indoor Forsyth Barr Stadium takes on added significance with the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy on the line.

Hunter coached both the Highlanders and the Blues, until ill health forced his retirement. He died in 2002.

Highlanders: Ben Smith, Trent Renata, Tamati Ellison, Shaun Treeby, Hosea Gear, Colin Slade, Fumiaki Tanaka, Mose Tuiali'i, John Hardie, Jarrad Hoeata, Josh Bekhuis, Brad Thorn, Ma'afu Fia, Andrew Hore (captain), Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Bronson Murray, Elliot Dixon, TJ Ioane, Aaron Smith, Hayden Parker, Ma'a Nonu.

Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Jackson Willison, Waisake Naholo, Baden Kerr, Piri Weepu; Peter Saili, Luke Braid/Brendon O'Connor, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (captain), Anthony Boric, Angus Ta'avao, James Parsons, Tim Perry. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Sam Prattley, Culum Retallick, O'Connor/Kane Barrett, Jamison Gibson-Park, Marty McKenzie, Jackson Willison.

-nzherald.co.nz

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