Settled Highlanders ready for Eden Park showdown

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Their only change from the side that beat the Reds 35-30 is Scott Gregory on the wing with the job of containing Caleb Clarke.

Dermody said Gregory's high work rate would be part of the task in front of all the side to lift their efforts at Eden Park to ensure their playoff berth.

Much of their effort will focus on denying the Blues the turnover ball they enjoyed in their first game of the season when the visitors won 60-20.

"They are a team that feasts on that [turnover ball] – not just Mark Telea, but they're a dangerous team all over.

"We try not to single out individuals – obviously defence does become individual, but it's a lot of system stuff as well."

The Highlanders were happy with their win over the Reds, and while not perfect, it was closer to the style they wanted.

"We didn't get the complete performance we were after, but we saw pleasing aspects of the game last week.

"The control that we had at times is what we've been looking for, so it's cool to be able to settle on a pretty similar team this week."

That has been helped by a request for flanker Shannon Frizell to be exempted from his All Blacks' rest week.

"We approached New Zealand Rugby and they agreed that the games he had off before the bye, and with the rest he had – carrying that injury for a couple of weeks – that was enough to make him exempt and get us over the line.

Freddie Burns will start for the fifth week, first five-eighths, confirming the boost he has given the side.

"He's a hugely experienced 10. The stuff he can drive through the week for our boys has been gold. He's now had a bit of a run at 10, so he's definitely stepped into a real game-driving role for us."

There was also relief that second five-eighths, Sam Gilbert's wrist injury was not bad enough to prevent him from playing. He will be paired again with Matt Whanga.

"Matt's come in, he's training well, and he took his opportunity at the weekend, so it's nice to be able to reward that, to show that there are opportunities for boys who stay local."

Blues v Highlanders: Friday 2 June, 7.05pm NZT, Eden Park. TICKETS. 


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