NICK CROSSWELL will wear the No 8 jersey for the rejigged Highlanders when they take on the Blues in Auckland tomorrow night, with incumbent Nasi Manu ruled out with injury.
His selection there is one of numerous changes coach Jamie Joseph has made to his team for the match at Eden Park.
Crosswell shifts from lock to the boot of the scrum for the tireless Manu, who has been sidelined with an ankle complaint.
That sees Hoani MacDonald slot into the second-row, while the other adjustment in the pack sees Andrew Hore return at hooker for Jason Rutledge.
Jimmy Cowan, who has battled for game time this season, replaces Aaron Smith in what will be just his third start at halfback.
He will be partnered by Chris Noakes, who takes over from Mike Delany at first five.
An ankle injury sees Kurt Baker replace Tongan international Siale Piutau on the right wing.
Ma’afu Fia retains his place at tighthead prop ahead of Chris King, with the latter once again failing to make the match-day 22.
The Highlanders beat the Blues 30-27 when the two teams met earlier this season.
Highlanders: Ben Smith, Kurt Baker, Tamati Ellison, Phil Burleigh, Hosea Gear, Chris Noakes, Jimmy Cowan, Nick Crosswell, Tim Boys, Adam Thomson, Hoani MacDonald, Jarrad Hoeata, Ma’afu Fia, Andrew Hore, Jamie Mackintosh (c)
Reserves: Jason Rutledge, Bronson Murray, Josh Bekhuis, Scott Fuglistaller, Aaron Smith, Mike Delany, Kenny Lynn
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.