Super Rugby 2019: All Blacks Ben Smith, Aaron Smith return to Highlanders

All Blacks Ben Smith and Aaron Smith have returned to the Highlanders line-up to face the Hurricanes in the Super Rugby NZ derby on Friday night.

Under the national team's player welfare protocols, the test stars - along with co-captain Luke Whitelock - were rested for last week's 24-19 loss to the Rebels in Melbourne, but will take their places at fullback and halfback respectively.

"It was always part of the plan to rest them last week and bring them back this week, so that selection was sorted a long time ago," confirmed Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger.

But international winger Waisake Naholo will start from the bench in Wellington on Friday.

Perhaps the most notable omission is loose forward Shannon Frizell, who has scored four tries through the first three rounds, but botched a potential gamewinner in the closing minutes against the Rebels.

"Shannon is a scheduled rest and Waisake has only got 37 minutes left out of his first three games," said Mauger. "He missed round one and I thought it best to bring him off the bench, given those parameters."

Thomas Umaga-Jensen and Sio Tomkinson combine in a new-look midfield, while cult favourite Richard Buckman makes his first appearance of the season on the wing.

"We've gone for a phyiscal midfield," says Mauger. "We know the Hurricanes backs are very physical - they're a big backline - so we want to make sure we match them there."

Highlanders: 1-Ayden Johnstone, 2-Liam Coltman, 3-Tyrel Lomax, 4-Pari Pari Parkinson, 5-Josh Dickson, 6-Jackson Hemopo, 7-James Lentjes, 8-Luke Whitelock, 9-Aaron Smith, 10-Josh Ioane, 11-Tevita Li, 12-Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 13-Patelesio Tomkinson, 14-Richard Buckman, 15-Ben Smith

Reserves: 16-Ash Dixon, 17-Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18-Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19-Tom Franklin, 20-Elliot Dixon, 21-Kayne Hammington, 22-Marty Banks, 23-Waisake Naholo


Join us at 7:30pm Friday for live updates of the Highlanders vs Hurricanes Super Rugby clash.