Super Rugby: Highlanders v Western Force preview

Last Updated: 14/03/14 1:08pm

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Sky Bet

Highlanders host Western Force in Dunedin on Saturday looking to bounce back to winning ways.

Jamie Joseph's men had a bye last week and previously ran the Chiefs close in Hamilton after routing the Blues at home in their first match.

Kurt Baker gets his first start of the 2014 Super Rugby season on the left wing for the hosts, who saw winger Buxton Popoalii announce his retirement from all rugby this week aged 24 after recently undergoing surgery to fix a heart valve.

Richard Buckman came in as the replacement squad member for Popoalii and he starts against the Force.

However, Brad Thorn remains out (rib) and winger Patrick Osborne is also sidelined (ankle).

Stunning victory

Opponents Force come into the clash on the back of a stunning victory against the Rebels, where they were 32-0 up after 27 minutes in Perth before the game finished 32-7.

Head coach Michael Foley has named an unchanged squad, with winger Luke Morahan in line to play his 50th Super Rugby match, after joining the Force from Queensland Reds this season.

Foley wants another explosive start, telling the team's official website: "Our focus was to start the match strongly last weekend and it was pleasing to see the team do exactly that.

"Our second half execution wasn't as precise. This week it's important for us to back up with another strong start and look to improve on our execution into the second half."

Highlanders: 15 B Smith, 14 Buckman, 13 Fekitoa, 12 Treeby, 11 Baker, 10 Sopoaga, 9 A Smith, 1 Hames, 2 Coltman, 3 King, 4 Hoeata, 5 Wheeler, 6 Hardie, 7 Christie, 8 Manu.
Replacements: 16 Robinson, 17 Diaz, 18 Millar, 19 Bekhuis, 20 Dixon, 21 Tanaka, 22 Parker, 23 Burleigh.

Western Force: 15 Hayward, 14 Morahan, 13 Rasolea, 12 Godwin, 11 Cummins, 10 Ebersohn, 9 Mathewson, 1 Cowan, 2 Charles, 3 Longbottom, 4 Wykes, 5 Steenkamp, 6 Cottrell, 7 Hodgson, 8 McCalman.
Replacements: 16 Tessmann, 17 Faulkner, 18 Hoskins, 19 Coleman, 20 Stander, 21 Prior, 22 Holmes, 23 Brache.

You can see all the action from Dunedin as the Highlanders take on the Force live on Sky Sports 2HD from 6.35am on Saturday.

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