THERE IS no rest for the wicked, as Tamati Ellison can attest to.
Having arrived in New Zealand last night after finishing his playing commitments in Japan, the former All Blacks utility back has been rushed into the Highlanders side for their opening Super Rugby game against the Chiefs in Hamilton tomorrow night due to injuries.
New Zealand’s southernmost franchise currently has midfielders Siale Piutau (ankle), Kendrick Lynn (neck) and Shaun Treeby (knee) nursing ailments in the casualty ward at the moment.
Ellison will line up at centre outside second five Phil Burleigh, allowing Ben Smith to revert back to fullback.
Kade Poki’s knee injury means wider training squad member Buxton Popoali’i will start on the right wing alongside Hosea Gear, while Chris Noakes surprisingly gets the nod ahead of Lima Sopoaga at first five in the absence of the injured Colin Slade.
Fortunately, the injury concerns at prop have eased, with only Ma’afu Fia (hamstring) confined to the sideline.
Bookend Chris King has overcome a groin strain and will take his place in the front-row alongside captain Jamie Mackintosh and hooker Andrew Hore.
Ellison’s Ricoh Black Rams’ teammate, England loose forward James Haskell, has been included on the bench.
So too has fullback Kurt Baker, who is set to make his Super Rugby debut after he missed all of last season with a back injury.
Highlanders: Ben Smith, Buxton Popoali’i, Tamati Ellison, Phil Burleigh, Hosea Gear, Chris Noakes, Jimmy Cowan, Nasi Manu, John Hardie, Adam Thomson, Nick Crosswell, Josh Bekhuis, Chris King, Andrew Hore, Jamie Mackintosh (c)
Reserves: Jason Rutledge, Bronson Murray, Culum Retallick, James Haskell, Aaron Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Kurt Baker
With the series level, expect both teams to put it all on the line as they seek to win the deciding test in Sydney on Saturday night.