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Hammington gets halfback start against Blues

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Lynn McConnell     19 Apr 2018     Getty Images

Mauger said the choice of Hammington at halfback ahead of Aaron Smith was a continuation of the rotation the side had been working through the competition while the short week, exacerbated by Smith being involved in an All Blacks day on Monday, had led to the decision.

Hammington had been a good performer on the occasions he had taken the field for the Highlanders and when playing either for the Bravehearts or his club and was deserving of his start.

The move also gave Smith a break from the starting role ahead of two tough challenges which follow the Blues game on the Highlanders tour of South Africa.

"The Blues are a dangerous side, especially at Eden Park. I think having a few changes probably make them even more dangerous, there's a lot of young guys in there so there'll be a lot of energy in their group," Mauger said.

While the changed circumstances of the Blues with those younger players included could make them more unpredictable, Mauger said that might be the case but it was also something sides would be aware of, and should prepare with that in mind.

"They've got a lot of strength, especially across the backline, a lot of guys there who are dangerous in open spaces and that probably extends to their forward pack as well with Akira Ioane a big threat, Patrick Tuipulotu has shown that's he a bit of a threat in open spaces too and the young fellow who came on last week Dalton Papali'i against the Sunwolves and scoring tries from 40 metres so they keep churning them out.

"We're well aware of those threats so we've got to make sure we're tight within our own process and make sure we don't give those guys too much space."

Mauger highlighted the pride the management team felt about the way second five-eighths Tei Walden had been going out and doing his job this year.

"He's a good team man and he's been the real glue in that backline and he's a smart player. He's tough, he's not a big man and he gives us everything we need and he gets another crack this week and we look forward to seeing him go."

Both Walden and centre Rob Thompson had been challenged on some aspects against the Brumbies last week and they had delivered in those areas and were able to put the ball in the right parts of the field which took a lot of pressure off the inside backs in their management of the game.

Blindside flanker Shannon Frizell was starting again and was getting better with every performance, he said.

"Having Shannon out there matches the Blues' physicality and I thought he did well against a physical Brumbies pack last week, he showed his muscle and got us on the front foot."