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Super Rugby: Highlanders v Western Force preview
Highlanders host Western Force in Dunedin on Saturday looking to bounce back to winning ways.
Jamie Joseph's men had a bye last week and previously ran the Chiefs close in Hamilton after routing the Blues at home in their first match.
Kurt Baker gets his first start of the 2014 Super Rugby season on the left wing for the hosts, who saw winger Buxton Popoalii announce his retirement from all rugby this week aged 24 after recently undergoing surgery to fix a heart valve.
Richard Buckman came in as the replacement squad member for Popoalii and he starts against the Force.
However, Brad Thorn remains out (rib) and winger Patrick Osborne is also sidelined (ankle).
Opponents Force come into the clash on the back of a stunning victory against the Rebels, where they were 32-0 up after 27 minutes in Perth before the game finished 32-7.
Head coach Michael Foley has named an unchanged squad, with winger Luke Morahan in line to play his 50th Super Rugby match, after joining the Force from Queensland Reds this season.
Foley wants another explosive start, telling the team's official website: "Our focus was to start the match strongly last weekend and it was pleasing to see the team do exactly that.
"Our second half execution wasn't as precise. This week it's important for us to back up with another strong start and look to improve on our execution into the second half."
Highlanders: 15 B Smith, 14 Buckman, 13 Fekitoa, 12 Treeby, 11 Baker, 10 Sopoaga, 9 A Smith, 1 Hames, 2 Coltman, 3 King, 4 Hoeata, 5 Wheeler, 6 Hardie, 7 Christie, 8 Manu.
Replacements: 16 Robinson, 17 Diaz, 18 Millar, 19 Bekhuis, 20 Dixon, 21 Tanaka, 22 Parker, 23 Burleigh.
Western Force: 15 Hayward, 14 Morahan, 13 Rasolea, 12 Godwin, 11 Cummins, 10 Ebersohn, 9 Mathewson, 1 Cowan, 2 Charles, 3 Longbottom, 4 Wykes, 5 Steenkamp, 6 Cottrell, 7 Hodgson, 8 McCalman.
Replacements: 16 Tessmann, 17 Faulkner, 18 Hoskins, 19 Coleman, 20 Stander, 21 Prior, 22 Holmes, 23 Brache.
You can see all the action from Dunedin as the Highlanders take on the Force live on Sky Sports 2HD from 6.35am on Saturday.
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|Friday 13th February|
|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|
|06:05||Waratahs vs Western Force|
|Friday 20th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Brumbies|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Waratahs|
|17:10||Bulls vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 21st February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Reds vs Western Force|
|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|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com