Ben Smith to be rested for Highlanders clash with Reds

Highlanders fullback will miss his side's Super Rugby clash with the Reds in Brisbane next week, staying in New Zealand after the naming of the first All Blacks squad of the year on Sunday.

Smith, 31, has been named to start at fullback for the Highlanders for their clash against the Waratahs in Sydney this weekend, however he will be rested for the side's next match in a bid to preserve his fitness for the All Blacks' series with France.

With Steve Hansen and New Zealand Rugby implementing a policy of key All Blacks being rested for at least two Super Rugby matches this season, Smith's withdrawal from the Highlanders' squad will come after the fullback has started in every single one of his side's matches this season.

Speaking to media at Highlanders training, coach Aaron Mauger confirmed that his co-captain will sit out of the Brisbane clash.

"Ben is a little bit different," he said.

"He had his sabbatical last year, so he had a lot of time off. We also didn't play him in the (Brisbane) Tens, which was requested by the All Blacks."

The likes of Aaron Smith and Waisake Naholo have also been rested by Mauger so far this season.

Highlanders fullback Ben Smith in action during the Super 15 Rugby match - Chiefs v Highlanders played at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand on Friday 30 March 2018.

Copyright photo: © Bruce Lim / www.photosport.nz
Highlanders fullback Ben Smith in action against the Chiefs in Super Rugby match in Hamilton. Source: Photosport



Sam Whitelock out, Crotty and Franks return for Crusaders' clash with Blues

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has made six changes to his side to face the Blues at Eden Park this weekend, including a return for star All Blacks Owen Franks and Ryan Crotty, while captain Sam Whitelock will not feature.

With Whitelock unavailable for selection this week, flanker Matt Todd will lead the side, while Quinton Strange comes into the starting line-up in the imposing lock's place.

Owen Franks returns to the front row, partnering with Tim Perry in what could shape as the All Blacks' front row for the June series against France, with Codie Taylor at hooker.

In the backline, Crotty's return to action will see him pair up again in midfield with youngster Jack Goodhue, while George Bridge switches from fullback to the left wing.

David Havili will run out in the number 15 jersey.

CRUSADERS: 15. David Havili, 14. Seta Tamanivalu, 13. Jack Goodhue, 12. Ryan Crotty, 11. George Bridge, 10. Richie Mo'unga, 9. Bryn Hall, 8. Jordan Taufua, 7. Matt Todd, 6. Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5. Quinten Strange, 4. Scott Barrett, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Codie Taylor, 1. Tim Perry.

Replacements: 16. Andrew Makalio, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Michael Alaalatoa, 19. Mitchell Dunshea, 20. Pete Samu, 21. Mitchell Drummond, 22. Mitchell Hunt, 23. Manasa Mataele.

Sam Whitelock tackled by Israel Folau
Waratahs v Crusaders Super rugby match at Allianz Stadium, Sydney Australia. Sunday 2 April 2017. Photo: Paul Seiser / www.photosport.nz
Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock tackled by Waratahs' fullback Israel Folau. Source: Photosport


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Rieko Ioane returns to the wing as Blues name side to face Crusaders

Blues coach Tana Umaga has had to make some enforced changes to his side for this weekend's clash with the Crusaders, with a number of surprise selections for the Eden Park showdown.

Young superstar Rieko Ioane switches back to the left wing, taking the place of Caleb Clarke who is left out altogether ahead of the NZ under-20s World Cup campaign. Melani Nani returns on the right hand side of the outside backs trio.

Lock Matiaha Martin will make his debut for the Blues, with Patrick Tuipulotu out injured.

Flanker Dalton Papalii has been bracketed alongside Murphy Taramai, with Umaga giving him as long as possible to prove his fitness.

Fullback Michael Collins will return to the bench, having missed four weeks with a hand injury.

BLUES: 15. Matt Duffie, 14. Melani Nanai, 13. Orbyn Leger, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Stephen Perofeta, 9. Augustine Pulu (c), 8. Akira Ioane, 7. Dalton Papalii/Murphy Taramai, 6. Jerome Kaino, 5. Matiaha Martin, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3. Ofa Tu'ungafasi. 2. James Parsons, 1. Pauliasi Manu.

Resreves: 16. Matt Moulds, 17. Ross Wright, 18. Sione Mafileo, 19. Ben Nee-Nee, 20. Murphy Taramai/Antonio Kiri Kiri, 21. Jonathan Ruru, 22. Dan Kirpatrick, 23. Michael Collins.

Rieko Ioane of the Blues is tackled by Curwin Bosch of the Sharks. Super Rugby match, Blues v Sharks at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. 31 March 2018 © Copyright Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung / www.photosport.nz
Rieko Ioane. Source: Photosport


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