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Highlanders' Joseph content to play by rules

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014
Jamie Joseph
ROB JEFFRIES/ Getty
HIGHLANDERS COACH: Jamie Joseph.

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Everyone in rugbyland wants to talk about scrums and how awful they are, except for Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph.

"For us, it's a nothing, it's a storm in a teacup. If your team is getting affected by a rule, then you have something to say, but every year there's been an addition or subtraction regarding the scrum laws," Joseph said.

"The learning out of that is you know about it, and you just have to prepare your athletes for it."

Joseph's Blues counterpart John Kirwan even suggested the two teams trial having the halfback feed the scrum without referee Steve Walsh at Eden Park tomorrow night.

"He just needed to make a phone call before he made that call," Joseph said.

The Highlanders have added some nuggety experience to their forward pack for tomorrow's return game against the Blues in Auckland.

Front-rowers Chris King and Ged Robinson come into the pack for Ma'afu Fia and Liam Coltman respectively, while Jarrad Hoeata will lock with Brad Thorn in the second row, with Joe Wheeler dropping to the bench.

Coltman will play off the bench alongside Wheeler, while prop Craig Millar replaces Matias Diaz in the reserves.

The Highlanders have retained the loose forward trio and backline from the win over the Hurricanes last Friday.

Despite their scrum woes, and the Blues have the worst scrum success in the competition, the Highlanders are wary of taking on a different side to the one they beat 29-21 in the opening round.

"I know they will be more motivated because we've beaten them, but I know our players will be more motivated as well. We are going to have to be at the top of our game to beat a team with the quality they've got in their roster."

Joseph said the news that Blues halfback Piri Weepu will be out of the game for at least four weeks after suffering a minor stroke would galvanise the Auckland-based franchise.

"He's one guy that's held them together for the past two seasons. Everyone's thoughts are with Piri and his family, but it's going to strengthen their team in the same way that Buxton's [Popoalii] health concerns did for us."

Meanwhile, Joseph had nothing to add on Highlanders lock Jarrad Hoeata, who has been linked with a shift to Welsh club Cardiff Blues after 39 games and three seasons in Dunedin.

"That hasn't been confirmed or denied by Jarrad. I guess when an athlete is 30, 31, those are the times you start contemplating where your future lies.

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"Personally, I had to go through the same decisions as a player and it's not easy. I don't know what decision he's come to but I do know that his heart and passion is with the Highlanders."

- Fairfax Media

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