Super Rugby round eight
Highlanders start Mose Tuiali'i
April 4, 2013
Mose Tuiali'i last played rugby in New Zealand in 2008 © Getty Images
Former All Blacks backrower Mose Tuiali'i has been thrust into the Highlanders' starting line-up for their clash with the Blues on Friday.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph was forced to start the 32-year-old, who has spent the last five years playing rugby in Japan, after injuries left his No. 8 stocks dangerously low.
The nine-Test international is one of two changes made to the side that lost its fifth consecutive game, against Queensland Reds in Dunedin. Jamie Mackintosh is set to make his first start of the season, in place of the injured Tony Woodcock (hamstring).
The Highlanders' depth in the loose was exposed when Nasi Manu went down in the opening game, and they have lacked an adequate replacement. Elliott Dixon did his best in the four games since, but Joseph has sent him back to the bench.
Tuiali'i is the fifth New Zealand player Joseph has brought back from Japan in the past two years to bolster the Highlanders. Last month the Otago franchise brought back Neil Brew, 34, seven years after the journeyman centre went offshore to play first in Bristol, England, and then in Japan. During the off-season, Joseph picked up 32-year-old loose forward Jake Paringatai and former All Blacks lock Brad Thorn, 38, who were both playing in Japan. Last year, he brought home 30-year-old Tamati Ellison, who was with Japanese club Ricoh.
The Highlanders were touted as genuine title contenders in the pre-season, but they are yet to reach their potential in their five losses. They have been hit by injuries to several key players and also the loss of All Blacks flanker Adam Thomson, who has quit New Zealand rugby to play in Japan.
Highlanders: Ben Smith; Buxton Popoalii, Jason Emery, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear; Colin Slade, Aaron Smith; Mose Tuiali'i, John Hardie, Jarrad Hoeata; Josh Bekhuis, Brad Thorn; Chris King, Andrew Hore (captain), Jamie Mackintosh. Replacements: Liam Coltman, Ma'afu Fia, TJ Ioane, Elliot Dixon, Fumiaki Tanaka, Lima Sopoaga, Phil Burleigh.