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Highlanders v Force: Teams
At Carisbrook, Friday June 3, kick-off 8.35am
Adam Thomson will hope to finally make his 50th appearance for the Highlanders as they face Western Force at Carisbrook.
The flanker was set to reach the landmark last weekend but withdrew from the team to face the Lions when it became clear that his rib injury had not healed in time.
The New Zealand international, however, has now had an extra week to recover and seems certain to feature in a game his side need to win.
The loss to the Lions has left the Highlanders facing an uphill battle to reach the end-of-season play-offs. In the only other change to the starting line-up, openside flanker John Hardie replaces Alando Soakai.
As well as Soakai, the hosts will also have All Black lock Tom Donnelly, who has recovered from a back injury, amongst their replacements.
Western Force, meanwhile, have no injury concerns following their previous match against the Hurricanes.
Coach Richard Graham has decided to give winger Alfie Mafi a starting berth having been a substitute for the past six games. Nick Cummins is the man to make way.
"We've had another week together on tour and unlike last week where there was a number of late changes we've had time to prepare and settle on the squad," Graham said.
"Bringing in Alfie is a chance to see what he can offer and see how he goes about playing under pressure from the start.
"Throughout this season we've seen a number of boys, like Paddy Dellit, take their opportunities and this is a chance for Alfie to do the same."
Graham has opted to stick with his improvised half-back partnership of James Stannard and Mark Swanepoel following excellent performances from the pair in the 34-28 win over the 'Canes at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Mo Schwwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements:16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 Alando Soakai.
Western Force: 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Alfie Mafi, 13 Patrick Dellit, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 David Smith, 10 James Stannard, 9 Mark Swanepoel, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Kieran Longbottom.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Tom Hockings, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Chris Cottee, 21 Mitch Inman, 22 Nick Cummins.
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|06:35||Crusaders vs Melbourne Rebels|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Reds|
|17:10||Lions vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 14th February|
|06:35||Blues vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Sharks vs Cheetahs|
|17:05||Bulls vs Stormers|
|Sunday 15th February|
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|Friday 20th February|
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|17:10||Bulls vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 21st February|
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|15:05||Stormers vs Blues|
|17:10||Sharks vs Lions|
|Friday 27th February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Reds|
|11:00||Western Force vs Hurricanes|
|17:10||Cheetahs vs Blues|
|Saturday 28th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Brumbies|
|15:05||Bulls vs Sharks|
|17:10||Lions vs Stormers|
|Friday 6th March|
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|Saturday 7th March|
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Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com