Chiefs move McKenzie to flyhalf

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 12:12

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has made extensive changes to the ahead of their trans-Tasman contest with the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.

In the forwards, Bay of Plenty hooker Sabastian Siataga earns his first start of his Super Rugby career after impressing in his debut off the bench in the Chiefs 26-18 win over the Hurricanes last Friday.

Siataga will pack down alongside Kane Hames and Nepo Laulala, who start in jerseys No.1 and No.3 respectively for the fourth consecutive week.

The second row remains unchanged from the opening three rounds, with Dominic Bird and Brodie Retallick set to continue their impressive locking partnership again this Friday.

Co-captain Sam Cane will don the No.7 jersey in his second appearance of the season.

He is joined by Tom Sanders and veteran Liam Messam, who return to the matchday 23 this week to complete the loose forward trio.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow makes his fourth consecutive start of the season at scrumhalf.

There are a number of exciting changes in the backline - beginning with Damian McKenzie who will start at flyhalf.

Stephen Donald will start in the No.12 jersey, with Anton Lienert-Brown shifting out this week to start at outside centre.

Solomon Alaimalo, a 21-year-old Northland outside back, will make his Super Rugby debut on the left wing, with Toni Pulu retaining the No.14 jersey.

The evasive Shaun Stevenson should prove a handful at fullback in his first start of the 2017 season.

In the reserves, Hika Elliot, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi and Atu Moli provide experienced front row cover, with the hard-working pair of Mitchell Brown and Mitchell Karpik looking to add impact off the bench.

Finlay Christie gets another opportunity this week following his debut game against the Hurricanes last Friday.

He is joined on the bench by co-captain Aaron Cruden and midfielder Johnny Faauli.

Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Stephen Donald, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Sabastian Siataga, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Mitchell Brown, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 23 Johnny Faauli.

Date: Friday, March 17
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.45 AEDT (21.45 NZDT; 08.45 GMT)
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 26 May 2017
Blues v Chiefs 07h45 Auckland
Reds v Force 09h45 Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 27 May 2017
Sunwolves v Cheetahs 05h15 Tokyo
Highlanders v Waratahs 07h35 Dunedin
Rebels v Crusaders 09h45 Melbourne
Bulls v Hurricanes 13h05 Loftus Versfeld
Wasps v Exeter Chiefs 13h30 London
Sharks v Stormers 15h15 Kings Park
Munster v Scarlets 17h15 Dublin
Jaguares v Brumbies 21h40 Buenos Aires
Sun, 28 May 2017
Lions v Kings 12h30 Ellis Park Stadium
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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 11 4 0 7 23
Waratahs 11 4 0 7 19
Reds 11 3 0 8 16
Force 11 3 0 8 13
Rebels 11 1 1 9 8
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 12 12 0 0 54
Hurricanes 11 9 0 2 43
Chiefs 11 9 0 2 43
Highlanders 12 9 0 3 41
Blues 12 6 0 6 31
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 11 7 0 4 30
Bulls 11 3 0 8 15
Cheetahs 12 2 0 10 11
Sunwolves 11 1 0 10 7
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 12 11 0 1 51
Sharks 12 8 1 3 38
Jaguares 11 5 0 6 24
Kings 11 4 0 7 19