Thompson starts for Highlanders

The Highlanders have made five changes to their starting lineup for Saturday's clash against the Lions in Dunedin.

In the only change to the backline, inside centre Rob Thompson is set to make his debut for the defending champions. The 24-year-old previously played for the Crusaders in 2014, and comes into the midfield ahead of Teihorangi Walden.

In the pack, there are four personnel changes and one positional swap. Tighthead prop Siosiua Halnukonuka is given a first start in place of Josh Hohneck who drops out of the match 23 and No 4 lock Alex Ainley takes over from Tom Franklin in the second row. 

Meanwhile flankers Shane Christie and Elliot Dixon are relegated to the bench, with Dan Pryor and Liam Squire completing the starting XV. Squire will however start at the back of the scrum with Luke Whitelock moving to blindside flank.

Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Luke Whitelock, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosiua Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Brendon Edmonds.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Elliot Dixon, 20 Shane Christie, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Jason Emery.

Photo: Rob Jefferies/Getty Images

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