Lock Tom Franklin set to start for Highlanders
Otago lock Tom Franklin will make his starting debut for the Highlanders against the Chiefs tomorrow night in Dunedin.
The big second rower has made only fleeting appearances this season as the fourth-ranked lock in the franchise, but injuries to Brad Thorn and Josh Bekhuis, and a form slump affecting Jarrad Hoeata, has meant he has been promoted.
It's a deserved promotion too because the rookie has looked good with the rare opportunities he's been given off the bench this year and was impressive for the Highlanders against an NZ Barbarians side in Invercargill last Friday.
Franklin has a big frame and has good athleticism and tomorrow night will be a good chance for him to claim a spot for the remainder of the season.
Waikato hooker Brayden Mitchell is another player who impressed against the Barbarians and he will get a chance in the front row with Ged Robinson on the bench and Liam Coltman not selected.
Mitchell missed three weeks earlier this season after being suspended for a lifting tackle.
With John Hardie set to miss the rest of the Super Rugby season with a knee injury and TJ Ioane spraining an ankle at training this week, Otago flanker Lee Allan, who scored two tries against the Barbarians, has been included on the bench.
Patrick Osborne, called into the All Blacks squad as injury cover during the England series, and All Blacks Ben and Aaron Smith and Malakai Fekitoa all return to the starting lineup.
HIGHLANDERS: Ben Smith, Richard Buckman, Malakai Fekitoa, Shaun Treeby, Patrick Osborne, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu, Shane Christie, Elliot Dixon, Joe Wheeler, Tom Franklin, Ma'afu Fia, Brayden Mitchell, Kane Hames. Reserves; Ged Robinson, Matias Diaz, Chris King, Josh Bekhuis, Lee Allan, Fumiaki Tanaka, Hayden Parker, Phil Burleigh.