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Squire back in frame for Highlanders

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Monday, June 3, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

All Blacks blindside flanker Liam Squire is set to be considered for his first appearance of the season while wing Tevita Li and forward Jackson Hemopo are also available for selection.

Squire was showing all the usual signs of his being ready to play.

Assistant coach Mark Hammett said: "He is really excited and is giving everyone a lot of stick and that normally means he is in a pretty good space.

"We know Liam is a game-changer, a guy we all like playing with. He is a guy who brings guys along with him," he said.

With Friday's game and that in Invercargill against the Waratahs next week, the formula for the Highlanders was simple: win.

Hammett said with seven points separating fifth from 13th on the ladder they were not out of the hunt and a win would keep them in the race on Friday.

"So that means a lot of us are desperate…the goal is to win the next two weeks but we have to break that down into how we can do that. We have already been talking about playing longer, going deeper for longer, with or without the ball.

"It means playing for longer, being in those spots where you have to go deep into yourself and the guy beside you. I'm 100 percent confident we can do that. That is how we are training."

At the backs of their minds was the inability to secure points during their African tour, a rare occasion when they returned pointless from the expedition.

"In the most part we were happy with the Lions performance. A lot of stuff we did, not just in game, in the week leading in, was good. The energy was right and so was a lot of the performance.

"But against the Stormers it was just uncharacteristic mistakes that weren't us, so that game was disappointing," he said.

Co-captain and hooker Ash Dixon said the big Bulls side would be physical and looking to 'run straight down the front door'. It was a case of preparing to deal with that.

"We know when we get our footy right we are pretty hard to stop. But there has not been enough of it this year. There has been some good first-half footy but [we've been] missing out at the back end of games.

"If we did manage to get a chance a couple of weeks down the track and it is finals footy…anything can happen. But it is just about this week and what we can do," he said.